Hellensmusic review


Hellens, Much Marcle ****
In recent years this haunted 1000-year-old manor house has become a much-visited venue for chamber concerts, but lockdown ended all that. Now, in its first appearance since then, Hellens has presented itself online. to much success.
Adam Munthe, its genial owner, welcomed us hospitably, and astute camera-work focussed subsequently not only on the dexterity and personal expressions of the performers, but also on a few of the glories of the house itself.
We were also let into the barn, where all Hellens live performances take place, and where here pianist Christian Blackshaw gave touching accounts of Mozart and Schubert, the latter's G-flat Impromptu warm and inward, textures beautifully balanced (though the online sound did the piano tone no favours).
Blackshaw's Mozart D minor Fantasia was a tad controversial. This was beautifully articulated, and there was I (who know a bit about Mozart) thinking what a template this piece was for the subsequent D minor Piano Concerto, with its happy ending after so much turmoil. But suddenly we were back into the gloom of the opening, instead of the customary bright concluding bars. Had Blackshaw unearthed a new edition of this piece, or was this an improvisatory conclusion? Despite myself I am half inclined to honour this approach.
The rest of the concert found us back in the house, with violinist Maya Iwabuchi, clarinettist Matthew Hunt and pianist Huw Watkins giving sparky accounts of works for that combination by Milhaud (many resonances of Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale) and Shostakovich (shades of klezmer music),
They also gave us Watkins' Dream in which fragments of Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata disintegrate phantasmagorically, to hypnotic effect.
What was so striking about the whole presentation was the empathy shared between the performers, and their genuine joy at once again having the chance to make live music together, both for themselves and for us.
Christopher Morley

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