Nash Ensemble

6pm, Saturday 7th February,
Wigmore Hall, London

The first of two concerts the Nash Ensemble presented last night as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations, this concert was fantastic but a little on the short side. This review isn’t the place for going into the musical politics of having all the contemporary music in the free concert and then the more mainstream works in a paid concert later in the evening, and I only went to the earlier one anyway. As a result it was rather short, and I was left feeling like I wanted more music.

The program featured three works commissioned by the Nash Ensemble, and opened with Debussy’s Syrinx, which morphed into Richard Rodney Bennett’s Sonata after Syrinx for flute, viola and harp. Flautist Philippa Davies played with energy and a rich, velvety sound, filling Wigmore Hall with what seemed like not effort at all. Joined by Lawrence Power and Rachel Wakeford, the Bennett was an intriguing and well-paced meditation on the Debussy. However, it didn’t hold my interest consistently, and I have to confess to admiring the hall’s decor as well!

The standout of the concert – both as a work and a performance – was Lawrence Power’s rendition of Prayer for solo viola by Julian Anderson. Far from a soft, mellow utterance, the piece was one of drama and tension. Only occasionally did the atmosphere relax a little. Power seemed totally at home here, and rendered every passage expressive and daring no matter what the technical challenges.

Finally, the original trio were joined by baritone Roderick Williams for Nicholas Maw’s Roman Canticle. This was a pleasant, colourful piece, the vocal line pastoral with the instrumentalists scurrying and running underneath. I could easily have listened to more!