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Broen Ensemble

A Celebration of Youth
Sunday 27th November, 2022

The appeal of a Sunday afternoon concert of classical music was amply demonstrated by the capacity audience, which greeted the Broen Ensemble presented by Music Nairn.  Financial realities mean that touring an ensemble of six players is a challenge, but this marvellous afternoon's entertainment provided by the excellent young Scottish group more than justified Music Nairn's courageous decision.  We were treated to two pieces rarely heard live in concert: Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht and the second of Brahms' two String Sextets.

More often heard in the later version for full string orchestra, Verklärte Nacht was originally composed for string sextet, and this chamber version proved wonderfully effective in its clarity and transparency of texture.  Richard Dehmel's torrid psychodrama expressed in louche harmonies and extravagant melodic gestures can often sound overwhelming when performed by massed strings, but this beautifully poised account by the Broen Ensemble allowed the individual instrumental lines and the full genius of Schoenberg's complex writing to emerge.  In a packed programme, the Ensemble had preceded this musical revelation with a wonderfully idiomatic account of Mozart's Adagio and Fugue K 546, in this case an arrangement of a piano original intended by its composer for string orchestra, but which worked very well one to a part.  It is a sign of the times that it goes almost without saying that these versatile players employed an appropriately 'classical' bowing style and no vibrato to give their performance a wonderfully authentic feel.

The Langsamer Satz for string quartet by Anton Webern which opened the second half, found another New Vienna School composer writing in full late-romantic idiom, prior to becoming one of the most uncompromising of the 'atonalists'.  A student work, written after an alpine holiday with his fiancée, the Satz is youthful music, lyrical, passionate and inspired.  Brahms' two masterly String Sextets, written when he was still in his twenties, are seldom heard live - the last time I heard this rich music in concert was in a memorable performance by the Raphael Ensemble for the Nairn Performing Arts Guild, the forerunner of Music Nairn.  The Broen Ensemble approached Brahms' wonderfully rich writing with youthful energy and assurance, the very qualities the young composer had poured so generously into his music.  This was a towering performance, compelling and involving, and a well-deserved ovation from the appreciative Nairn audience was rewarded with a short encore, a toe-tapping folk dance arrangement from the Danish Quartet's Woodworks project.  This was an
eclectic and enormously demanding programme, played with commitment and considerable technical skill by this exciting home-grown ensemble.

Reviewed by: D James Ross

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