Pelléas Ensemble

Church Hall Iffley March 11th 2018

Pelleas Ensemble

Thanks to sponsorship by the Young Artists' Platform of the Tillett Trust, Iffley Music Society was delighted to welcome the Pelléas Ensemble. This young and dynamic trio was formed at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2011 and has since won many national and international competitions and Awards.

The Ensemble, Henry Roberts (flute), Oliver Wass (Harp) and Luba Tunnicliffe (viola) is superb. Their programme began with a limpid and expressive performance of the Elegiac Trio by Arnold Bax, written in mourning for Bax's Irish friends executed in reprisal to the 1916 Easter Uprising. This was fine music in an early 20th century English style; the programme notes claimed parallels to Vaughan Williams but to this listener the links seemed more to Delius and the French impressionists. Pelléas gave us a beautiful performance that established the initially unfamiliar sound frame for a delightful afternoon of music.

Corelli's Trio Sonata op 3 no 2 was written presumably for two stringed instruments and a harpsichord but in the skilled hands of Pelléas the transposition worked well. It is a good humoured piece and even the yearning melodies of the Adagio seem to reflect a wry smile rather than a welling tear. The third item on the programme, Moroccan Sketches, was written for the Ensemble by the London and Birmingham based composer Stephen Roberts. Striking in this work was the ability of instruments to combine in producing new and intriguing sound. Roberts and Pelléas achieved sounds that the well-travelled among our audience identified instantly with Moroccan instruments. For the more stay-at-home the Ensemble's brilliant playing of an intricate and interesting sequence of impressions was sufficient delight in itself. Stephen Roberts was also the arranger of two songs by George Gershwin that ended the first half of the programme.

Bartók's Suite Paysanne Hongroise was based on a collection of folk songs. The Ensemble did well in their contrasting of the first section of Chants Populaire Tristes with the second of Vieilles Danses. This phase of the programme ended with Chanson Triste and Mélodie by Tchaikovsky providing a charming bonne bouche in preparation for the major work of the afternoon Debussy's sonata for flute, harp and viola.

There is an eternal polarity between the way that composers think about music and the way most of us listen to it. Composers plan the individual notes and trace their relationships and journeys across the staves. Some modern composers have been plausibly accused of being so interested in the patterns of the black notes on the page that they are psychologically deaf to the resulting sound. Debussy, in contrast, was deeply interested in sound itself and is well known for spending much effort and ingenuity in recalling the sonorities of the Indonesian gamelan with Western instruments. His love of sound, soothing or dramatic, was epitomised in his choice of harp flute and viola for the sonata that he completed just before his death. This was the first work that the Pelléas ever played together and their performance was masterly both in presentation of the music structure and its range of intensity. What a wonderful concert!