Preview: Hebrides Ensemble – Transfigured Night
Hebrides Ensemble and Psappha to celebrate a quarter of a century with a tour of five performances
For 25 years, Hebrides Ensemble has been at the forefront of contemporary chamber music in Scotland and, increasingly, beyond. First performances, recordings, festival appearances, new commissions, music theatre and composer collaborations are all firmly under its belt. So how does a group like Hebrides do something different for its special birthday?
'I don't know how it dawned on us,' says founding artistic director and cellist William Conway, 'but we realised that both Hebrides and Psappha ensemble are 25 at the same time.'
Manchester-based group Psappha is the only stand-alone, professional contemporary classical music ensemble in the north of England and, in common with Hebrides, has very close connections with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who died earlier this year. The two groups will come together for a tour of five performances across Scotland, England and Wales, with the music of Max, as he was so fondly known, being essential to their Transfigured Night. It opens with his The Last Island, set alongside evocative images in a film of the Holms of Ire, the Orkney island setting which inspired the piece. Poignantly, the evening closes with Max's ever-popular Farewell to Stromness in a new arrangement for strings and cimbalom by Scottish composer David Horne. The six string players, three from each ensemble, are also at the heart of Schoenberg's iconic Verklärte Nacht – the 'Transfigured Night' of the programme's title and a pivotal work setting the powerful text of the same name by German poet Richard Dehmel.
'How we began,' says Conway, 'was wanting to do new music justice and for people to make proper judgements about it. Twenty five years later, the energy and standards of performance are still there. It's really important to keep them high all the time, and also very exciting.'
St Andrew's in the Square, Glasgow, Tue 8 Nov; Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, Wed 9 Nov.