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Written by Garry Fraser
Published on Monday 19 October 2015

Quote-Marks-1If you are in the company of Franz Schubert, it’s an extremely nice place to be as his music never fails to satisfy. If you are joined by the wonderful Scottish Ensemble and a soloist of the calibre of Maxim Rysanov the ambiance increases as does the enjoyment. The first concert of the Scottish Ensemble season in the Caird Hall was called In Schubert’s Company, and at one point or another either directly or indirectly we were at one with the great man, ensuring that the Schubert theme ran deep throughout the evening.

Of the two works by Sergey Akhunov, one was a submission to the other a commission from Rysanov. The contrasts were evident. The opening work, from which the concert’s title came, was slightly tame in comparison to the fast and demonic form of Der Erlkonig, which was inspired by a relatively unknown Schubert song. However, Rysanov’s rich viola sound and the expert backing of the Ensemble ensured there was much to savour in both works in terms of texture, harmony and atmosphere.

Next it was the turn of Dobrinka Tabakova to provide her interpretation of a Schubert work and a self-penned tribute to the composer. His Arpeggione Sonata fits the cello perfectly but as the viola is close in terms of tone, her arrangement left nothing to be desired. In fact, with strings instead of piano, there was a richer sound and more substance. Rysanov was to sign off with her Fantasy Homage to Schubert. Beautiful harmony abounded and when the soloist entered with the main theme I was looking forward to many minutes of magic. However, his contribution was over almost before it started which was a great pity.

I sensed the final item of the programme would be something special and it was. The Ensemble excel
in arrangements of string quartets, and their performance of Mahler’s arrangement of the Death and The Maiden quartet was simply divine. If anyone needed evidence that the Ensemble is a class above the rest it was here in spades. It was first class in every aspect of performance.


The programme 

Sergey Akhunov                 6.36 in Schubert’s company
Sergey Akhunov                 Der Erlkönig
Schubert                               Arpeggione Sonata [arr. D. Tabakova]
Dobrinka Tabakova          Fantasy Homage to Schubert
Schubert                               String Quartet No. 14, “Death and The Maiden” [arr. Mahler]

Go to the Dundee Courier website