He­brides En­sem­ble

Queen’s Hall

The Scotsman - - Internatio­nal Festival - SU­SAN NICKALLS

Co­p­land was a huge in­flu­ence on the young Bern­stein as the He­brides En­sem­ble re­vealed in this fas­ci­nat­ing sur­vey of their works in this en­thralling pro­gramme. Writ­ten when Bern­stein was a 19-year-old stu­dent, Pi­ano Trio shows a young com­poser in search of his voice.

But there are some tell­tale Bern­stein signs such as the jazzy pizzi­cato in the sec­ond move­ment and his play­ful end­ings to move­ments. But you would never think it was by Bern­stein, just as Co­p­land’s splashy Pi­ano Vari­a­tions, de­liv­ered with verve and com­mit­ment by James Bail­lieu, is hard to rec­on­cile with the com­poser who wrote Ap­palachian Spring. Given its pop­u­lar­ity, Co­p­land wrote a cham­ber ver­sion for 13 in­stru­ments played su­perbly by He­brides. They cap­tured the bright-eyed op­ti­mism and ex­pan­sive hori­zons of Co­p­land’s home­spun Amer­i­can style in this in­ti­mate ar­range­ment.

The big­gest rev­e­la­tion was Bern­stein’s last ma­jor work, the song cy­cle Arias and Bar­carolles for mezzo-so­prano, bari­tone and pi­ano with Bail­lieu and Philip Moore duet­ting and scat­ting as re­quired.

These eight vi­gnettes – Bern­stein wrote most of the lyrics – of­fered touch­ing in­sights into beau­ti­fully ob­served do­mes­tic scenes. J’nai Bridges and Alex Ot­ter­burn sang con­vinc­ingly to­gether and separately about a va­ri­ety of sub­jects from love, wed­dings and chil­dren to the af­ter­math.

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