Music / CIMF, Concert 15: “Magic Eight”. At Fitters’ Workshop, May 5. Reviewed by FELIX HUBER. 

WITH three performances all featuring ensembles of eight musicians, this concert was a celebration of music weird and wonderful performed with the vivid colours of winds, voices and strings.

The performance opened with a rendition of Igor Stravinsky’s “Octet” by a troupe of wind players.

The piece was a masterwork in call and response, and it was entertaining to try and follow which of the eight musicians was responsible for the current impressive flurry of notes as the lead voice bounced from one side of the stage to the other.

Dual bassoonists Ben Hoadley and Zoey Pepper were the stars of this performance as they chugged along diligently through tunnels of rich wind textures until given the space to blow off steam. The singsong playing of flautist Sally Walker was also a standout, especially when paired with the more piercing sound of Oliver Shermacher on the clarinet.

The second act, a performance from the Luminescence Chamber Singers conducted by Roland
Peelman, was of a more contemporary work by Danish composer Per Nörgard called “Wie Ein Kind”.

A setting of writings by the schizophrenic Swiss artist Adolf Wölfli and poet Rainer Maria Wilke, the piece was quite evocative of its strange subject material with its first movement being punctuated by shrill outbursts from various choir members – a desired effect, but not a pleasant one.

The second movement was more palatable, but still a strange listen. With regular stops, starts and dissonances, it teased and danced around the majesty of a full choral sound but refused to deliver it.

The third movement returned to the experimental nature of the first, this time featuring desperate
pleas and wails from tenor Dan Walker.

This was an odd piece and certainly not for everyone’s ears but it was well performed and an interesting addition to the program.

Standing ovation for Quatuor Van Kuijk made a quintet with the addition of double bass, clarinet, bassoon and horn. Photo: Peter Hislop.

The final performance, a rendition of Franz Schubert’s “Octet”, featured Parisian string quartet
Quatuor Van Kuijk made quintet with the addition of Max McBride on double bass and joined by
clarinet, bassoon and horn played by Oliver Shermacher, Ben Hoadley and Aidan Gabriels

Every member of this ensemble was on point, with the Quatuor’s playing being especially exquisite.

Shermacher also shone amongst this expert group of musicians, his clear tone ringing like a bell.

From the tidal swells in the adagio to the pure warmth of the strings in the menuetto, this was a truly wonderful performance well deserving of the standing ovation it received.

Feature image: Festival artistic director Roland Peelman conduct the “Magic of Eight” concert at the Fitters’ Workshop. Photo: Peter Hislop

This review was originally written and published by FELIX HUBER from CityNews on 05 May 2023.