MORE people ought to have heard this inspired programme by the

Hebrides Ensemble. The small yet receptive audience enjoyed an evening

of Beethoven, Schoen-

berg and Shostakovitch, an evening that made quite an impression.

Schoenberg's rarely-heard Ode to Napoleon is an uncontested jewel in

his crown. The setting -- for string quartet, piano, and reciter -- of

Byron's sarcastic tirade creates the effect of a musical nightmare

through the combination of a powerful text and emotionally-charged

orchestration. Samuel West was eloquent and animated in his

interpretation of the declaration.

The forceful and grotesque writing is not unlike the macabre irony of

Pierrot Lunaire. Although labelled ''serial'', the music reveals

Schoenberg's recourse to tonality in the presence of a vague tonal

centre of E flat, the key of Beethoven's Eroica, originally intended as

a dedication to Napoleon.

Top of the bill was the Piano Quintet by Sho-

stakovitch. The music has Russia written all over it in the rustic

folk song, tear-stained lyricism, and jagged structure. This performance

was thoroughly absorbing with the players indulging in aching melodic

lines, a hypnotic fugue, and a ferocious attack on the finale,

eventually finding repose in the closing bars. Stunning.

Earlier Beethoven's delightful Piano Trio Op.1 no. 2 served as a

fitting appetiser for what was to come. Here was chamber music in the

purist sense, the four movements well balanced and perfectly executed.

The Hebrides excelled throughout, all young performers save the more

experienced Peter Evans whose playing was as seductive as ever.