REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Solem Quartet & Friends, Ryedale Festival Finale

Solem Quartet: “A fitting close to two deeply satisfying weeks”

Ryedale Festival Finale: Solem Quartet & Friends, Hovingham Hall, Hovingham, July 31

AFTER including four Schubert events over its opening weekend, Ryedale Festival closed with three substantial Schubert offerings over its final two days. His ever-popular Octet was the last event on this programme, following two pieces by the American composer Florence Price.

Alhough she died nearly 70 years ago, Price has only really come to prominence in the past decade, after the chance discovery of a cache of her scores. Summer Moon, composed in 1938, was among them. Its pastel shades are well adapted to string quartet and generated an elegiac aura.

Her variations on “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes” proved equally appealing, evolving naturally and showing more than mere craftsmanship in their modulations. These tasters suggested that she deserves to be better known by British audiences.

So to the Schubert. The Solem’s first violin, Amy Tress, led the proceedings most effectively. The extra instruments – clarinet, bassoon, horn and double bass – added more than the expected resonance and took some adjustment: double bass and horn, although expertly handled, sounded boomy and over-exuberant respectively in the Allegro.

Things settled down, however, in the slow movement, which was allowed to breathe, with cool ensemble over the long dominant pedal and pregnant pauses before the coda.

Brio in the scherzo was nicely complemented by a smooth trio. In the succeeding variations, Stephanie Tress’s cello sang engagingly in the main melody and the whole ensemble ruminated gently thereafter. The minuet really danced and its trio had the lightness of a Viennese pastry.

In the finale, the return of the opening material might have been a touch more menacing, but the acceleration to the end was genuinely exciting. A fitting close to two deeply satisfying weeks: Christopher Glynn and his cohorts deserve the utmost praise for assembling them and in next to no time.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Violins of the OAE, Hovingham Hall, Ryedale Festival, 21/7/2021

Kati Debretzeni: “She sounded as if there were at least three of her”

Ryedale Festival: Violins of the Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment, Hovingham Hall, Hovingham, July 21

ONE of the benefits of the pandemic – there have not been many – is the rethinking it has brought about. Social distancing makes it impossible for the entire Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment (OAE) to take the stage together. So the eight violins have decided to break out and do their own thing.

This was the second of two Baroque concerts they gave in the receptive acoustic of Hovingham’s old riding stables. All eight opened boldly in a Telemann concerto with four solo roles, making the most of the dissonance in the slow movements and adding really crisp rhythms to the powerful unison that opened the finale.

Thereafter, we enjoyed smaller groupings. Kati Debretzeni appeared on her own in an improvisation (Passaggio Rotto) and fantasia in A minor by Nicola Matteis the elder, who settled in England in the 1670s. Carefree in the first part, she was so brilliantly in command of the advanced techniques in the second that she sounded as if there were at least three of her.

After a dance-like start, Dan Edgar and Claire Holden engaged in much jocular dialogue in Telemann’s ‘Gulliver’ Suite in D, regularly changing tempos on the spur of the moment. The prelude to Bach’s third partita for solo violin made an engaging arrangement for a foursome, also highly conversational.

Even more exciting was the first movement of his ‘Italian’ concerto, in a wonderful arrangement for a quartet whose shading was masterly.

The sudden tempo changes in Giovanni Gabrieli’s Canzon Duodecimi Toni, written for two brass choirs, worked well in this building, although without quite the bite of the original. But the blend was impeccable. A threesome by Joseph Fux was well crafted, as you might expect from him, its suspensions a little forced, but the voices dovetailed neatly in its finale.

Finally, another concerto by Telemann, this time for only four players, brought some magical pianissimos, almost prefiguring Mendelssohn’s fairy music. The sheer panache and enjoyment of these players was a tonic throughout the evening.

Review by Martin Dreyer