Classical review: O’Sullivan, Neal, Moroney Trio

Crawford Gallery, Cork

****

The third in this year’s series of six ‘Summer Lunchtime Concerts’ at the Crawford Gallery featured, possibly, the most unusual combination of instruments heard in the 52 years of the concerts’ history.

Flautist Eilís O’Sullivan, bassoonist Emma Neal, and pianist Ciara Moroney treated the captivated audience to an entertaining antidote to the stresses of modern life, playing music by three composers, only one of whose names is familiar.

A contemporary of the French composer, Joseph Bodin de Boismortier (1689-1755), said that his music, like an abandoned mine, contained enough gold dust to make an ingot — an evaluation with which this reviewer can heartily agree. His trio ‘Sonata in A minor’ was absolutely delightful. It had all the elegance that we associate with the music of JC Bach, early Haydn, etc, and was performed with wonderfully shaped phrasing, subtle, dynamic shading, splendid balance and, in the finale, a delicious sense of mischief.

Tim Jansa is a German-born composer, now living in America, whose name was unfamiliar to me, but whose music I will seek out in the future.

His ‘Three Nocturnes’, he wrote in a programme note, “attempt to capture night’s calm serenity and mysterious atmosphere”. While his music is essentially tonal, he uses free chromaticism most effectively.

His musical ideas are easily distinguished and he knows how to write for his chosen medium.

I particularly liked the second movement, ‘Dialogue in the Dark’, with its bird-like flutter-tonguing on flute, answered by the sombre bassoon and menacing piano. The final ‘journey’ was exciting and the coda gently calming.

Beethoven’s ‘Trio in G’, written when he was, at most, 17, is the only work for this combination of instruments in his catalogue.

Even at this early stage, he had a thorough appreciation of instrumental colour, as well as an understanding of the compositional norms of the time and each of the performers relished the opportunities Beethoven gave them to shine, especially in the final coda.

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