Review: Ensemble 360 at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

Ensemble 360
Ensemble 360

My last review of an Ensemble 360 concert ended with a plea to Scarborough music lovers to pack the theatre for a forthcoming Cropper , Welsh, Roscoe recital. Sadly, the 2015 evening opened with an appreciation of founder member of The Lindseys and frequent performer at the Stephen Joseph, Peter Cropper, who died last week.

Seldom have I found it so easy to review a concert. Quite simply, the playing and the engagement of the Ensemble 360 musicians was astonishing.

The only question I could raise would be about the programming: was it wise to schedule the Dvorak first? When spontaneous applause breaks out from an experienced audience between movements, you know that something special is happening. If that is the first response you arouse, is it possible to continue the rest of the concert at that elevated level?

At the interval, there was much speculation that the five players in the Dvorak Quintet No 2 Op 81, were playing in Peter Cropper’s honour. Certainly, something was driving them to extraordinary heights. The viola and cello were particularly rich in tone and the well-loved Scherzo paid due respect to the folk melody from which it was derived.

In whatever form he appears on a programme, Dvorak rarely disappoints.

Three of the Qintet players morphed into the violin, viola and cello parts of the Mozart Flute Quartet in C K285b. Juliette Bausor’s flute provided the soprano voice for this relatively short piece. From this point on, it became clear that the leader for the evening was Benjamin Nabarro on first violin.

The final piece brought seven members of Ensemble 360 on stage for the Beethoven Septet. Again, the playing was animated and energetic, but precise. The Septet is early Beethoven and he was famously dismayed by its success as he felt it overshadowed his later work. The horn sections were well handled by Naomi Atherton and Lauren Durantel provided visual drama as well as double bass support.

Even within the separate pieces, the audience were treated to music of variety, challenge and charm. Ensemble 360 is based in Sheffield, so they know Yorkshire priorities: we certainly got our money’s worth.

Review: Mike Tilling