Friday 25 October 2019

MUSIC REVIEW: Sinfonia Cymru: Piazzolla Plus with James Crabb - The Stoller Hall, Manchester.

Based in South Wales, the Sinfonia Cymru is an orchestra (although according to the programme's advertising, sometimes it isn't an orchestra too, but an ensemble and provider of the best of young Welsh musical talent) and this evening part of their number were at Manchester's Stoller Hall to play a selection of dance music from Vivaldi to Arvo Pärt with celebrated accordeonist James Crabb leading the ensemble.

Crabb's talents on the accordeon seemingly knew no bounds this evening as he happily chatted about the pieces he was to play and gave an inteersting and brief history of the accordeon. His enthusiasm infectious and his passion for the music and the instrument palpable. He would have benefitted from the use of a microphone for his between playing anecdotes though, the back row would have been struggling to hear.

The evening sped by with the 14-strong string ensemble ameliorated by piano and drums. Crabb shared the spotlight with violinist Caroline Pether for some of the tunes, and she came into her own with Arvo Pärt's 'Fratres' - a haunting melody with modern harmonic structure from this contemporary Estonian composer.

Crabb sat centre-stage playing the accordeon and with deft head movements or slight body movements also ably controlled and conducted the ensemble The Argentinian-born composer Astor Piazzolla started and ended the concert with his most famous piece, the Libertango as the opener and a much more symphonic and classically oriented Concerto for Bandoneon (a type of accordeon) and orchestra in three movements, "Acconcangua", being the flourishing finale.

In between these we heard other tango and dance pieces arranged by Crabb for this combination of instruments, notably Vivaldi's Concerto in F major (RV542) which should be played by violin, strings and organ, but here of course the organ part was played by Crabb and his accordeon. We also heard some very beautiful tangos from Finnish composer Kalevi Aho. Apparently there is something of a tango-craze in Finland, and so composers are 'jumping on the bandwagon'! However, as far as Piazzolla was concerned, the Finnish tango music "isn't tango; but it smells of tango!"

My favourite two pieces of the evening though have to be 'The Romance Of The Devil' and 'The Death Of An Angel'. Both programmatic tango-esque pieces by Astor Piazzolla, and were hugely dramatic, atmospheric and fun!

Sadly this evening's audience was somewhat thin on the ground, which was a shame, since the Sinfonia Cymru with soloists Caroline Pether and James Crabb proved to be a highly enjoyable evening; light-hearted with serious undertones, the choice of music excellent and we all left humming a dance beat and with a lightness of step!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 24/10/19

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