4* review for The Night With… Ensemble Offspring (10/9/2019)

Ensemble Offspring

The Hug and Pint, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars


COMPOSER Matthew Whiteside’s The Night With . . . series of concert promotions has very quickly grown from a small nut of an idea into an impressive network of international connections. This was the second of four UK dates under that banner by Australian quartet Ensemble Offspring, led by percussionist Claire Edwardes. On the back of a visit by the band to the Netherlands, Whiteside is behind concerts of new work in Belfast, Edinburgh and Aberdeen as well as Glasgow, including a new piece by himself written especially for the group.

Rama, it’s title derived somewhat mysteriously from a book by Arthur C Clarke, sat very comfortably in the company of works by Australian composers, many of them now based in Europe. It played teasingly with tension between rhythm and melody, and was clearly written very specifically for the forces at his disposal, with Edwardes joined by the clarinet of Jason Noble, Lamorna Nightingale on flute and Zubin Kanga at the keyboard.

It was preceded by Thomas Meadowcroft’s Medieval Rococo which added to its retro vocabulary with electronics, an even more essential feature of Andrea Keller’s Rilke-derived Love in Solitude. On that piece, and occasionally elsewhere, I would have liked a little more assertive playing and leadership from the group’s leader. In this very intimate space, it was easy for the group’s live playing to appear a little too reserved, when more dynamic contrast was what was required.

On two of the earlier pieces, Jane Stanley’s Glow and Kate Moore’s Blackbird Song, it was Nightingale’s flute that particularly impressed. The latter was delightfully filmic and clearly a work – again written especially for the group – that the musicians have made very personal. There was some considerable distance between that and the relative ebullience of Paul Mac’s Mesemerism, as arranged by Jessica Wells for the group. This re-moulding of electronic dance music for a small chamber group was an Antipodean cousin to some of the work of our own award-winning Anna Meredith, and its placing at the conclusion of this cleverly-paced programme was another eloquent reminder of music as an international language.