Hebrides Ensemble

Hebrides Ensemble

Queen's Hall

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Michael Tumelty

THE Queen's Hall morning series of festival concerts opened on Saturday with a cracking brace of works, Schoenberg's Transfigured Night and Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale, both of which received tremendous performances from Hebrides Ensemble players.

In The Soldier's Tale, actor Graham F Valentine, in his one-man triple-act as Narrator, Devil and the Soldier, demonstrated with riveting intensity what I might refer to as the Giles Havergal "woolly jumper" philosophy of theatre: who needs costume when you have someone who can really act? It's pure. It's unadorned. It is music theatre to perfection.

This was a fabulously characterised account of the Tale, conducted by Will Conway and with every individual instrumentalist in the augmented Hebrides as engaged in that characterisation as Valentine, whose virtuoso delivery of his own adaptation of Jeremy Sams' translation was as vibrantly musical as Stravinsky's score. Players and actor were as one, with Valentine in torrential form.

Not everyone agreed with me on the effectiveness of Eduard Steuermann's transcription for piano trio of Schoenberg's great string sextet, Transfigured Night. For me, Steuermann's magical masking of the gaps was beautifully enshrined in the gorgeous performance by violinist Stephanie Gonley, pianist Philip Moore, and Conway on cello.