Bach to Blues
A lunchtime concert at St Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday 19 July 2017, 12:15pm, Wellington
Bach in Ireland – J S Bach (1685-1750), Irish Jigs, arranged by Maria Millar
Ave Maria – J S Bach (1685-1750), Charles Gounod (1818-1893), arranged by Confetti
London Trio no.1 in C Major – Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Scandinavian Suite – arranged by Sonic Escape
Walking the Woods in Twilight – Maria Millar
Mosquito Blue – Maria Millar
Oblivion – Astor Piazzolla arranged by Confetti
The short story (tldr):
The concert was a professional, polished performance and they were clearly enjoying themselves. The highlights: the London Trio by Haydn was a classical, classy piece; Mosquito Blue was simply a ‘show stopper’; and the rich harmony, soulful melody and the compelling rhythm of Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion was a fitting end for the concert. The Confetti website contains their repertoire of pieces, but from this concert, I think they could do ANYTHING.
The long story:
The instant impression of the trio was dazzling – resplendent in gold and black.
[A footnote: Wellington colours!]
Bach in Ireland began with the Bach’s Gigue from his Cello Suite No. 2. The cello was centre stage and the flutes were in the background. When the arrangement morphed to the exciting Jig, the flutes sidled downstage and proceeded to amaze with confident and prolific versatility: flutter-tonguing, trills, jet whistle, tongue rams, tongue pizzicato, glissando, … almost ‘paradiddles’! In fact, the reference is not specious – the cello was transformed out of a melodic and harmonic instrument to a percussion instrument, pizzicato or ricocheting her bow, and slapping her left hand on the fingerboard. Effectively the cello became a bodhran and Paula demonstrated incredible coordination and rhythmic precision. In the final Jig Dana swapped her flute with a tin whistle.
The ensemble were attentive in their stage presence. They choreographed their movements, giving attention to the soloist and gracefully commanded the space around them. The music stands were an adjunct – they glanced at them but were at ease with the music and each other.
The flutes were quite different tonally. Dana’s sound was more earthy or visceral and she often played the inner parts, the ‘alto’. Emily’s tone was dulcet and celestial – the descant. It was a subtle difference but the music’s arrangement played to their tonal strengths.
In Ave Maria by Bach-Gounod the cello had the melody (the ‘Gounod’ part of the piece) and the flutes were the filagree accompaniment (the ‘Bach’ element.) This was their own arrangement and the flutes employed an hocketting effect – the arpeggios were split over the two of them with some notes enlongated or accented. With the cello central, and the flutes left and right, in was a stereo effect. I would like to have more legato tone from the cello though.
The London Trio by Haydn was something else. It was written for this combination of instruments and it showed – a master composer and a classical, classy piece. The balance was superb, the dynamics varied and, in the Andante, the rubato was finely restrained. The Vivace was at a breakneck tempo but all the players were comfortable – relaxed and seemingly effortless.
The next three pieces were written or arranged by Maria Millar, and Canadian composer. Her works were excellent: contemporary but accessible, eclectic but exemplary – Classical, folk and jazz roots, with odd time signatures and ‘rock’ influences.
The middle movement of Scandinavian Suite, ‘Lars Persson‘ from Sweden, was particularly fascinating: unusual metres and an almost ‘oriental’ quality to it. The third movement, ‘Hornpipe’ from Denmark, introduced a ground bass from the cello and a cascade of notes from the two flutes. Stunning.
The trio introduced Walking the Woods in Twilight as ‘an exhilarating musical journey’, and it was all that. A jazzy plucked riff from the cello and the pianissimo flutes set the idyllic scene, but it collapsed into an ominous, dangerous mood. Emily channeled Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson in an adrenalised rock-jazz style! The mood changed again to a more peaceful scene with Dana swapping her flute to whistling bird calls.
For Mosquito Blue: up-beat rock cello, a torrent of notes from the flutes, flutter-tonguing, slurring and staccato, jet whistles, unusual time signatures … it was simply a ‘show stopper’!
Astor Piazzolla’s tango, Oblivion, was the last piece on the programme. For myself, I would have swapped Oblivion to the penultimate piece and had Mosquito Blue as the up-beat finale. But I have to say, their own arrangement of Oblivion displayed the qualities of these marvellous musicians. All three had a spotlight moment and the rich harmony, soulful melody and the compelling rhythm was a fitting end for the concert.
What a pleasure to hear this group from the wilds of Hawke’s Bay. I would like to hear another classical piece, but with only 45 minutes the programme was satisfyingly diverse. The concert was a professional, polished performance and they were clearly enjoying themselves. The Confetti website contains their repertoire of pieces, but from this concert, I think they could do ANYTHING.