Guardian review of Short Stories

Activity: OtherMedia (Press)


Of all the ways to spice up a classical concert, this was surely one of the most daft. The Scottish Ensemble construed their latest tour as a kind of Anglo-Germanic showdown: the programme showed Walton and Brahms facing off over a football, and Union Jacks and German flags were distributed for a post-concert audience vote. The premise had come from an argument between the Ensemble's leader, Jonathan Morton, and its chief executive, Thorben Dittes, about whether British or German music was better. Better? Playful as the whole thing was, it forced comparison. Is Walton's Sonata for Strings "better" than Brahms's Second String Quintet? (Answer: no.) Do Martin Suckling's Short Stories – four shimmering miniatures written for the Ensemble last year – "beat" Leopold Hurt's fairly caustic Dead Reckoning? (Yes, if it comes down to it.) Music isn't a competition, and pairing British and German music is hardly novel. Still, the playing was top-notch. Walton's Sonata opened urgently, ardently, with mercurial shifts from solo voices to full-blooded tuttis. It was intriguing to hear Suckling's tightly sprung Short Stories performed as a group. As miniatures their sparky interchanges and twisting contours really glistened; together the impact dimmed a little, like reading too many short stories in a row. Hurt's Dead Reckoning takes its terminology from aeronautical navigation and is about as penetrable. A bass bow amplified through a megaphone had the effect of fingernails on a blackboard, but gruff cello lines conjured old sea dogs and a viola's faint sea shanty tugged through the mists. Morton's ensemble arrangement of Brahms's Quintet in G made a boisterous, sumptuous close. Balance was tricky – two cellos never stood a chance against 13 upper strings – but the sound was warm and spirited. Incidentally, Germany came out the clear favourite in the post-concert vote. The Guardian (Kate Molleson) 26 October 2013
Period26 Oct 2013
Event titleConcert - Scottish Ensemble - 'Britain vs Germany' tour
Event typePerformance
LocationGlasgow, United KingdomShow on map