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Review: Vale of Glamorgan Festival - Nieuw Ensemble @ All Saints Church & RWCMD

Posted by Weeping Tudor from Cardiff - Published on 02/06/2015 at 15:49
0 comments » - Tagged as Festivals, Music, Travel

  • Image Credit: By Bogaerts, Rob / Anefo [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl], via Wikimedia Commons

Vale of Glamorgan Festival - Nieuw Ensemble

All Saints Church, Penarth & Dora Stoutzker Hall, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff

Wednesday 13th May 2015 (Penarth) & Thursday 14th May 2015 (Cardiff)

Now in its 46th year, the Vale of Glamorgan Festival gets bigger and better every year.

With musicians journeying over from all over the world (this year would be The Netherlands, China and Estonia), it's always a special time of year, especially when summer is sort of on its way to Wales.

All Saints Church, Penarth

Heralding from Amsterdam, the Nieuw Ensemble had been at the Royal Welsh College the day prior, working with student composers and building relationships in Wales, this being their inaugural trip here. They began this concert in Penarth, with the actual piece that united them as an ensemble, the Venus and Adonis Suite by Theo Loevendie. Written for a staging of the Shakespeare poem, it has a deep Elizabethan quality in the music, with guitar and mandolin being a keen sound in the score. I'm guessing they play this a lot, since it means so much to them?

Loevendie has written a fab little solo piece, simply entitled Dance. Violinist Emi Ohi Resnick has jingles on one foot to keep the tempo and maintain a hurried folksy charm. Estonian composer Arvo Part is 80 this year and features greatly in the festival's programme. His Scala cromatica, though brief, is charming and containing gliding cello notes of almost four octaves. Many of his pieces are about two minutes in length and this was no exception.

Chinese composers and musicians are also a big deal here in the Vale. With Tan Dun and his Circle with Four Trios, Conductor and Audience, he asks the audience to participate. Getting us to say "haaa", then twittering like birds, gossiping and then shouting, the work is a bold endeavour but pleasing for us, as we feel we are a part of the music. It's a heavy going score, but still holds up as an ear appealing experience.

Ending the evening was Qigang Chen and his Poemes Lyrique II, taking poetry from Su Shi (1037-1101) the renowned Chinese poet of the Song dynasty. With baritone Romain Bischoff, the music was authentically Chinese. Bischoff signing in Beijing Opera stylings (which is very dramatic voice to deliver) and the musicians evoking a real sense of nature along with a striking portrait of the Orient.

Dora Stoutzker Hall, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff

The next day, at the RWCMD in the afternoon, another appearance by the ensemble was their farewell to Wales, as they travelled back to the Dutch capital shortly after. Along with Part as a featured composer, is also a great discovery in Dobrinka Tabakova. Originally from Bulgaria and now residing in London, she and other composers of her generation are finally making tonality OK again. Her Frozen River Flows is for oboe and vibraphone. It's a dreamy work, laced with space for contemplation, as neither instrument tries to do out the other in their gentleness.

Another large presence at the festival is that of Richard Ayres. Having the UK premier of his new opera Peter Pan a few days later, his appearance was never unnoticed. With his scruffy hair, shaven face (we see many photos of him with a beard) and unspoken quietness, he is a rapscallion composer, if ever there was one. His piece No. 34b is preceded by many other works of his with just numbers for names (was he scared no one would ever catalogue his work?).

Things started off badly, as the CD player on stage would not work (for the sounds of the sea) and the players having to work without it. It's an entirely bizarre piece, but I do love it. Begining with the musicians shuffling, coughing and being asked in the score to look up left and up right, its as if something has caught their eye. The lady behind me found it terrible, but it is an acquired taste. What it was best at was vividly capturing the soundscape of the seaside (Ayres hails from Cornwall), but not with a futile stereo, but by other brilliant means. The woodwind would blow in their instruments, creating the waves, as the cellist delivered shrieks, as if to mimic gulls.

There are many more concerts to follow...

All Saints Church Concert Rating: 4 stars
Royal Welsh College Concert Rating: 3 stars

The 47th Vale of Glamorgan Festival continues next year: 10th to 20th May 2016. The final concert features the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC Singers conducted by Jac van Steen. With music by Pteris: Cantabile and the world premier of his Viola Concerto, with soloist Maxim Rysanov, along with The Desert Music by Steve Reich.

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Image Credit: By Bogaerts, Rob / Anefo [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl], via Wikimedia Commons

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