The unifying characteristic of The Kegelstatt Ensemble's, Burlesque, is the admirable piano playing of Leigh Harrold, who inserts a judicious array of shade and heartiness into the performances.
From the opening bar of Camille Saint-Saëns "Caprice on Danish and Russian Airs", the pianist demonstrates his undeniable presence with buoyancy and bluster. Due to his best efforts – and that of Flautist Alexandra Castle, Oboist Renae Stavely and Clarinettist Stephanie Wake-Dyster – the programme on the whole hits the mark. All the musicians produce solid performances, full of technical assurance and artistic commitment. Particularly on the strong and moving "Caprice," they display sensitivity to one another, complementing the strength and vitality of the work with flashes of personal familiarity.
But Harrold's immensity overshadows all especially on his solo pieces taken from Claude Debussy's Préludes, Deuxième Livre. "La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune", allows the pianist to invade the senses with gentle, exotic and atmospheric tones before gaining in dynamism and playfulness then descending into the gloom. Castle joins Harrold for that staple for flute and piano Olivier Messiaen's "Le Merle Noir" ("The Blackbird") – the earliest of his pieces to be based principally on birdsong – and her solo passage after the piano dies away is lovely.
After an interval that seems to be longer than some of the performances the first two pieces are from the swinging sixties – Poulenc's "Sonata for Oboe" and Piano and Jolivet's "Sonatine for Flute and Clarinet" but it's the concluding work that swashes the listener. Darius Milhaud's "Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet and Piano" is captivating with its polytonal elements and driving rhythms.
It's a pity that Burlesque is a one-off performance. It deserves to be heard by many more lovers of fine music.
The Kegelstatt Ensemble presents
Venue: Pilgrim Church, 12 Flinders Street, Adelaide
Date/Time: 3pm, Sunday November 13, 2011
Tickets: Adults $25 / Concession $18
Bookings: BASS 131 246