Reger – Serenade for Flute, Violin & Viola, Op. 141a in G
Haydn – Symphony No. 101 in D, “The Clock”, arr. J P Salomon
Ensemble Nova Luce, Monday 21 November 2016
I escaped grey skies and pouring rain on Monday to slip into St Martin-in-the-Fields for a delightful lunchtime concert given by Ensemble Nova Luce.
A chamber ensemble formed in 2015 by postgraduate students and fellows of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Ensemble Nova Luce performs unusual repertoire and chamber arrangements of well-loved orchestral works which offer a fresh take on the music while also harking back to the historical convention of music being performed at home as a form of recreation. Such arrangements made large-scale suitable for small-scale and intimate gatherings of friends, to be played in the comfort of one’s living room.
Another of Ensemble Nova Luce’s projects is exploring the lost art of classical improvisation, something which during the time of Haydn and Mozart, and indeed into the 19th century with musicians such as Liszt, was an everyday part of the performers’ skill set. The practice of improvisation gives performers the freedom to diverge from the score and the idea that there is one version of the music, a concept which has gained increasing currency with the wide availability of high-quality of recordings.
The recital opened with Max Reger’s Serenade for Flute, Violin and Viola, Op 141a. The distinctive instrumentation, which omits the lower registers, major key and witty musical figures combine to create a bright, joyful mood. The work was engagingly performed by Rosie Bowker (flute), Marie Schreer (violin) and Henrietta Hill (viola)._
The second work in the programme was Haydn’s Symphony no. 101 in D Major, “The Clock”, arranged for a chamber ensemble of flute, two violins, viola, cello (bass) and piano by J P Salomon who was a founding member of London’s Philharmonic Society at the same time as Haydn visited London. The ensemble of seven musicians created a full, textural sound, underpinned by the double bass part which lent a richness to the music. Meanwhile, the small scale arrangement reminded us that it is possible to enjoy this music in a more intimate setting. There was wit and humour aplenty, in particular in the second movement (from where the symphony gets its nickname) and a keen sense of the musicians thoroughly enjoying this music. A most enjoyable and vibrant concert and an excellent start to the week. I recommend seeking out Ensemble Nova Luce.
After the concert, I met up with the bass player, Gwen Reed, a postgraduate student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, following studies at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. In addition to her work with Ensemble Nova Luce, Gwen performs with several other ensembles in London, including the Silk Street Sinfonia and Ensemble X.Y., and she has performed in London’s Barbican Hall, LSO St. Luke’s, and Cadogan Hall, as well as at venues in Europe. In common with her colleagues in Ensemble Nova Luce, Gwen is clearly a very active, engaged young musician who is keen to create performance opportunities and to collaborate with a wide variety of musicians and composers.
(Look out for a Meet the Artist interview with Gwen Reed, coming soon to http://www.meettheartist.site)
(photo credit: Skins Elliott Photography)