Ensemble Q: Dinner Party - Review

Ensemble Q: Dinner Party - Review


Posted 2023-10-23 by John Andrewfollow

Sun 08 Oct 2023

I admire Ensemble Q, led by Paul and Trish Dean. They have carved out a niche market - an audience that responds well to the abstruse, the quirky, and the excellent.

Their latest spectacle, aptly titled The Dinner Party, was a venture beyond the ordinary—masterfully executed with an exuberant flair.

The concept was ingenious. Transporting us back to 1906, the Austrian premiere of Strauss' groundbreaking opera "Salome" was a hook to hang our show on. The likes of Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Zemlinsky, Mahler, Strauss himself, and even the unexpected presence of Puccini, gathered for a post-performance dinner, providing a riveting cross-section of the musical zeitgeist.

Ensemble Q ingeniously crafted a concert featuring compositions from all seven composers. Paul Dean was an engaging, urbane and erudite host.

In QPAC's concert hall, transformed into a more intimate, reverse configuration, a dinner table adorned the stage. Here, some performers, not involved in specific pieces, became audience members, infusing a delightful sense of camaraderie with the spectators.

The repertoire selection was utterly enthralling. Daniel de Borah's deeply lyrical rendition of Schoenberg’s "Sechs kleine Klavierstücke" opened the evening, followed by Puccini's sublime string quartet "Crisantemi," exhibiting tantalizing traces of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde." Webern’s "Three Pieces for Cello and Piano," presented by Trish Dean and de Borah, showcased an astonishing mastery of "brevity and economy of expression" (according to the program notes) leaving the audience hanging on every sparse note.

A breath of levity arrived with Zemlinsky’s "Humoresque" for wind quintet, a marvel in its scoring. Berg's "Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano" followed, infusing the atmosphere with lush richness. The first half climaxed with Mahler’s poignant "Songs of a Wayfarer," presented in Schoenberg’s chamber arrangement. While some nuances felt slightly exaggerated, Shaun Brown's soul-stirring vocal delivery brought that unmistakable "good silence" as an audience is drawn in to inhabit the music with the performer.

During the interval, the specially curated "The Dinner Party" package allowed the front two rows of the audience to mingle with the artists over bubbly.

The second half unveiled two compositions by none other than Richard Strauss himself. "Throwing a bun to the elephants" said one audience member. De Borah’s magnificent performance in Strauss' early piano quartet, akin to a piano concerto sketch, left an indelible mark. The evening concluded with an exhilarating arrangement of Strauss’ beloved "Till Eulenspiegel," compacted and transmuted into a captivating chamber rendition, a testament to the ensemble's artistry and innovation.

Ensemble Q has ignited our anticipation for future programs, teasing upcoming performances centering on the groundbreaking "Tristan und Isolde" and the epochal premiere of "The Rite of Spring" in 1913.

The magic they conjure on stage is something to be ardently awaited and celebrated.

266111 - 2023-10-11 05:31:58


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