Vertical and Horizontal Threads

MIKE WHEELER listens to Sinfonia Viva's wind principals playing music by Maddy Aldis-Evans and Musorgsky


Museums and art galleries provided the theme for a short Friday afternoon concert by Sinfonia Viva wind principals Rachel Holt, flute and piccolo, Maddy Aldis-Evans, oboe, Matthew Dunn, clarinet, Dom Tyler, bassoon and Richard Lewis, horn - Derby Museum and Art Gallery, 17 November 2023.

They opened with the world premiere of Aldis-Evans' Woven, which takes its cue from an eighteenth-century loom housed in Derby's Museum of Making. (The concert was to have been held there, but it had to be relocated, following flood damage.) The composer, who also directed, told us that she explored the idea of vertical and horizontals meshing to create a fabric. The opening section represented the horizontal threads, starting with a rhythmic unaccompanied piccolo part, a lyrical oboe line, repeated bassoon phrases, stuttering figures for the clarinet, and interjections from the horn. A still, quiet section switched attention to the vertical threads. Vertical and horizontal then came together, before the fabric unravelled. The two final notes on the bassoon provided a witty sign-off to a very attractive work. Aidan Aldis-Evans' accompanying video, the outcome of a GCSE art project, was equally inventive as it reflected the music's different stages.

Maddy Aldis-Evans playing in Derby's Museum of Making
Maddy Aldis-Evans playing in Derby's Museum of Making

Matthew Dunn directed the performance of Musorgsky's Pictures from an Exhibition that followed, in the wind quintet transcription by Joachim Linckelmann, and his opening solo led off a robust account of the opening 'Promenade'. 'Gnomus' was playful, verging on the mischievous, while a melancholy bassoon solo took centre-stage in 'The Old Castle', followed by a skittish, rowdy 'Tuileries'.

It's a pity that, in 'Bydło', Linckelmann followed Rimsky-Korsakov's edition of the piano score in substituting a quiet opening for Musorgsky's original loud one, but the long recession at the end was effectively brought off. After a dreamy intervening 'Promenade', the chirping and squawking of 'Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells' was exuberantly energetic. In 'Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle' the self-importance of the one, and the pleading of the other were well characterised.

Sinfonia Viva's wind principals
Sinfonia Viva's wind principals

The gossiping in 'Limoges - The Market Place' was vividly conveyed, breaking off abruptly for the solemnity of 'Catacombs'. Unfortunately, Linckelmann asks for the horn-player to use a mute for the second section, 'Con mortuis in lingua mortua', breaking the essential continuity between the two, though the atmosphere was soon restored. 'The Hut on Chicken's Legs', home of the witch Baba Yaga, had a sharp, malevolent edge, while the processional character of 'The Great Gate of Kiev' was projected sturdily, with the chant passages providing moments of calm concentration, and the horn's bell notes ringing out in celebration.

Copyright © 2 December 2023 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK



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