News Column

Review: Classical: Aldeburgh festival Snape Maltings and various venues 32/40

June 23, 2014

Rian Evans

Snape Maltings' concert hall is unquestionably the heart of the Aldeburgh festival, and its fine acoustic further enhanced the brilliant playing of soloists of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in music by Elliott Carter, Janac?ek and Mendelssohn. But performances in older venues continued to conjure something of the aura and pioneering vision of Benjamin Britten's earliest festivals.

In his recital on the small stage of Jubilee Hall, accordionist Teodoro Anzellotti covered three centuries of music, challenging assumptions and confounding expectations along the way. Music conceived for harpsichord (Scarlatti), for harmonium (some of the originals of Janac?ek's From an Overgrown Path and for piano (Ligeti and Kurtag) came over well, with no sense of any loss in the translation, but Anzellotti also played works specially written for him. Berio's Sequenza XIII, the composer's penultimate piece of that series, exploring both the accordion's technical possibilities and its myriad cultural references, was testimony to the performer's remarkable artistry.

Meanwhile, the newest, Rebecca Saunders's And Waters Making Moan (its title taken from Yeats) examined the elemental nature of sound, as well as the gestures required for the instrument to create it. In this setting, a mere stone's throw from the North Sea, it became performance art: the air of the bellows became a gently threatening easterly, the concertina folds wave upon surging wave. Anzellotti, hitherto wholly austere, at last smiled benignly at the roar and stamp of applause that greeted him.

There was more virtuosity again at Aldeburgh's parish church, where the harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani embraced music from early 17th-century Bull and Gibbons to Bartok and Ligeti. In the latter's Continuum, seeing the effort expended was like watching someone pushing himself to the limit on a weight-machine in a gym, with an added aesthetic agenda. Esfahani's disarming ability to talk his listeners through the before-and-after of the experience matched his extraordinary technique.

Rian Evans

The festival continues until Sunday. Box office: 01728 687110.

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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