Music

Hebrides Ensemble

Perth Concert Hall

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Michael Tumelty

Five Stars

SALLY Beamish described her re-invention of Debussy’s unique sea sketches, La Mer, played in Perth on Monday by the Hebrides Ensemble, as one of the biggest challenges she has encountered. She was attempting to re-imagine one of the most subtle and complex pieces of orchestral writing ever created for what seemed like the relatively black and white medium of the piano trio. It could have been the violin and cello carrying the main thematic material, while the piano added beef, bass and colouring. Or it might have divided all the material with more or less equal responsibility.

But what she actually did, with extraordinary craftsmanship, was immerse herself in the letter, spirit, structure, nuance, colour and detail of the original, and literally re-cast it for solo violin, cello and piano. I avoid using the name “piano trio” because it wasn’t that bald: at times it was hard to tell which instrument was doing what. Labelling, here, is useless: what we heard was Debussy, all Debussy, and pure Debussy, right down to the surge of the waves in the outer movements, with the most spectacular glints of the sun on the sea in the glorious second movement, Games of the Waves.

It’s a difficult piece, not just technically but in its immense subtlety and complexity of texture. It needs great players. And by Jove did it have them in violinist James Clark, pianist Philip Moore and Will Conway, cellist and Hebrides leader. Sally Beamish has produced a colossal, creative masterpiece, beautifully matched on Monday by rich performances of Takemitsu’s Between the Tides and Ravel’s Piano Trio.