ENSEMBLE 360 – Doncaster CAST – April 22nd 2023

ENSEMBLE 360 – Doncaster CAST – April 22nd 2023

Full of sunny uplift, Ensemble 360’s crowd-pleasing programme of chamber music treated the audience to three ever popular works, effortlessly carrying listeners along on irresistible journeys full of exciting invention, playful twists and unexpected turns, all underpinned with reassuring melodies, harmonious verve and soothing timelessness.

Fielding an unusual line-up of top class players that mixes long-standing regulars with not-so-regulars, the group’s first flourishes hailed the delightful, intriguing Grand Septet in B flat by foremost Swedish composer Franz Berwald (1796-1868) who completed the work in 1828. Using the same set of instruments as his influencer, Ludwig Van Beethoven, master of drama and mood, Berwald creates lively, plucky interplays of cello and double-bass and beguiling contributions from viola, violin, horn, bassoon and clarinet. Multi-tasking being nothing new, Berwald was also a successful physiotherapist and manager of a glass factory: music-making alone, alas, couldn’t earn him enough money to get by on.

Next up was Mozart’s 1789 Clarinet Quintet in A K581, written specifically for the composer’s clarinetist friend, Anton Stadler (1752-1812), a virtuoso Mozart admired so much he lent him money in spite of not having enough himself. In a work full of rich variety, timeless playfulness and mesmerising charm, it was Robert Plane who had the pleasure of having his fine clarinet playing to come to the fore this time round. Then, for the finale, the Septet in E flat Op 20 by Beethoven (Ludwig Van), another glorious, highly accessible work, featuring warm, familiar, memorable melodies, perky, energetic cheer, and the added charm of fanfares, horn calls, cadenzas and surprises that give each player a chance to woo. Beethoven wasn’t pleased that this lighter work was enduringly more popular than his later, more deeply passionate and demanding works, but audiences thrill to it still and heart-felt applause followed this evening’s captivating music.

Next on Ensemble 360’s busy agenda is Music in the Round’s annual, major Chamber Music Festival, which runs between 12-20 May at The Crucible, Crucible Playhouse and in the adjoining Peak District. This year’s guest curator, eminent pianist Kathryn Stott, will perform in a series of massively exciting concerts, along with other tip-top guests like tremendous trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth, harpist Ruth Wall, bandoneon exponent JP Jofre, saxophonist Amy Dickson and violinist Pavel Fischer. No, there’s certainly never a dull moment in Sheffield even after the snooker tables have been cleared away and the shiny trophy has been carried off by a triumphant world champion.

For more information go to the Music In The Round website by following this link.

Eileen Caiger Gray.