The Nash Ensemble of London
The Nash Ensemble's Realms of Gold
"'Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,' wrote Keats in his sonnet On First Looking into Chapman's Homer. The Nash Ensemble are such travellers too, especially in their current season Realms of Gold, devoted to works by Elgar, his colleagues and successors.
at Wigmore Hall on Saturday 20 January 2007
These Nash musicians live gold. They play gold. They just don't earn it. Time and again we heard the group trademarks: warm colouring, perfect balance, a miraculous ensemble sense, exquisite but never bloodless taste. They dominated the Elgar woodwind trifles, and Ian Brown's piano fingering - fleet, dappled, always blending. They coursed through the violins of Marianne Thorsen and Malin Broman. Maybe once or twice Richard Lester's cello slipped a hair's breadth below pitch in the Delius sonata; but the moment vanished, swept away by song and rhapsody.
The Nash know about programme building, too. Give people nothing but burblings and pastoral mists and you threaten asphyxiation. So in came Warlock's song cycle The Curlew, to poems by Yeats, coloured black. The lonely cries of Gareth Hulse's cor anglais pierced the air - more so, indeed, than John Mark Ainsley's tenor. His was a fine-tuned performance; but I'd gladly have lost some of Ainsley's hard control for larger signs of an expressive ache.
Happily, the chill thawed in the second song cycle of the night, Vaughan Williams's Housman-set On Wenlock Edge. Less desolate poetry helped; so did Ainsley's bolder projection and close attention to textual detail. And the Nash players pounced upon Vaughan Williams's airy, atmospheric scoring, touched with French influences. The storms that battered Britain last week whipped through the Wigmore in the opening cascades. The summer haze launching Bredon Hill, later on, was just as vivid.
What have I missed? Oh, the Bliss Oboe Quartet, with Hulse again, delivered with ease: more realms of gold. And a packed house. I hope for the same at the all-contemporary Nash Inventions concert in March."
Geoff Brown, The Times, 25 Jan 07
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