A Garland of Flutes

Bedern Hall, York

9 March 2012

Bedern Hall is a really interesting venue, an ancient stone building stuck in the middle of a modern housing complex. (And really hard to find, requiring a magical mystery tour in a big circle round half of York — it would have helped if my map had actually had useful things like streets marked on it.) I guess it held about 100 people, and there wasn't a free seat in the place. I was sat right at the back due to getting there with seconds to spare (see story about getting lost, above) but the view of the stage and the sound were fine. A really good venue for this type of music. The concert was in two halves of about 45 minutes each.

For those that don’t know: 'A Garland of Flutes' is a flute quartet, so naturally the evening consisted entirely of flute quartets (and trios).

I’ve never been to a chamber concert I didn't enjoy, but I normally pick concerts where I know at least some of the music and the programme at this concert was completely new to me. And it's a two-hour drive to York on a Friday night. So let's be honest: no matter how much I love music, I wouldn't have gone to the concert if it didn't have Angela Gordon's [former flautist with best rock group of the 21st century, Mostly Autumn] name attached to it. But it did, so I did.

And I’m really glad I did, because it was a hugely enjoyable evening.

More than half the programme was contemporary (or near-contemporary) music, some of it commissioned especially for this quartet. Mixed in with the modern were some older pieces (Mozart, Haydn, Dvorak), and one piece I actually recognised (a theme from Carmen, arranged by Angela Gordon). The modern pieces by Simaku, Cottom, Heneghan, and Berthomieu (composers I had never actually heard of before this) were by far the most interesting parts of the programme, and I would happily go along to listen to any of them again.

It's hard to comment on a piece of music after hearing it only once so I can't say much about the new pieces. Simaku offered three beautiful Albanian folk tunes; Cottom's Various Trouts was a theme and variations — the variations being in the style of waltz, ragtime, and tango, among others — and was amusingly clever; Henegan's Three Scenes for Flute Quartet was the only work with a less-than-conventional tonality, and was probably my favourite piece of the night.

So the verdict: absolutely beautiful music, beautifully played, in a really good venue. And all in aid of a good cause (http://www.jessiesfund.org.uk). I can't think of a better way to spend a Friday night.

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