Published on Saturday 18 March 2017
Written by Susan Nickalls
Scottish Ensemble and Johannes Fischer rehearsing on stage at Glasgow’s Oran Mor
The title “Baroque Dance Party” doesn’t quite do justice to the Scottish Ensemble’s enthralling collaboration with percussionist and composer Johannes Fischer.
Following a laid-back stroll through Bach’s Air on the G String by the ensemble – string quartet plus harpsichord and double bass – Fischer delivered his astonishing, ear-bending offering, Air, for snare drum and accessories. Literally blowing air across the skin of the drum to begin with, he continued to coax unusual timbres from the instrument like a musical chef. For instance, using the snare like a resonating chamber, Fischer manoeuvered a triangle across the drum’s surface to produce ringing tones, then thumped, brushed and swatted it before finally running an electric shaver across its surface.
Fischer served up a rarified musical feast in Tafelmusik Recomposed (A dining experience with Telemann: Music for electrified table and strings) by manipulating numerous everyday objects on an amplified table, from paint scrapers to washing up scrubbers, nails and bottles filled with alcohol. Gliding between past and present, the ensemble (led by Jonathan Morton) and Fischer reconfigured Telemann’s sophisticated rhythms through the prism of electronica with a dash of childlike charm via a tinkling toy piano.
Fischer’s inventive soundscapes blur the lines between early and contemporary music. His percussive contributions to Purcell’s Suite from The Fairy Queen on bodhrans, dried African nuts and Korean temple blocks, emphasised the fiery dance rhythms. The musicians were in superb form, bringing a fresh improvised jazz-like quality to this 325-year-old masterpiece.