by Rachel Beaumont

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I can’t say how great it is to be back: Kaleidscope at Wigmore Hall

Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective and Matthew Rose
Wigmore Hall
Stalls F1, £20
30 September 2020
Wigmore page

Schubert, Adagio and Rondo concertante in F major
Glinka, Doubt
Borodin, The Pretty Girl No Longer Loves Me
Whitley, This is My Love Poem for You
Walker, Lyric for Strings
Barber, Dover Beach
Korngold, Piano Quintet
Rodgers, ‘Some Enchanted Evening’

There’s nothing like six and a half months of enforced silence to make you appreciate live performance. (I did already appreciate live performance, so, powers-that-be, if you’re listening, from that perspective the pandemic is shall-we-say de trop.) It is good, great, fantastic to be back, and remarkably un-weird even with the bizarre ticketing and entrance regimes, an audience at less than a tenth the hall’s capacity and the ubiquitous face coverings.

In fact, as the pandemic coincided with my entrance into motherhood, by far the strangest feelings for me were this first absence from my child, and the conjugation of a pre-child activity such as Wigmore-going with varied maternal feelings, including a portion of my brain trained baby-wards even in absentia, and a growing yearning from my breasts for an outlet of their creative juices.

But it’s worth saying again how great live performance is. I always knew it was better than listening to a recording and now I really know it. The vividness of the sound, its texture, its volume all brought me immediately to a state of teary excitement almost independent of the programme; had it been an evening of Glass I think I might have been just as terribly excited.

Fortunately it was not an evening of Glass, though Kaleidoscope’s programme nonetheless covered things that I would not usually classify as my cup of tea. This performance didn’t really challenge that classification – I enjoyed the Schubert well above and beyond everything else – but there was much I found interesting: particularly in the Borodin, with its tricksy major-minor melancholy, the Barber in its rambling oddness and the Korngold, the most substantial piece in the programme.

Korngold’s post-Strauss mid-century European romanticism I can find overbearing, and there was a quality of line missing from Kaleidoscope’s performance that I think might have helped make sense of the piece’s expansive emotionalism, particularly in the inner movements. But coming just before Korngold’s move to America and the ensuing influence he was to have on film music it’s undoubtedly an interesting piece, impressively mercurial and enjoyably sassy, particularly in the jibing finale.

Aside from a few passing hints elsewhere of that empty emotionalism I sensed in the Korngold, Kaleidoscope gave an admirable performance, well tuned, well expressed and well rehearsed. My heart swelled to see the familiar bear-like presence of Matthew Rose on stage, and live singing really, really beats recordings. But perhaps perturbed by the near-empty hall Rose didn’t quite gauge the volume needed correctly, over-singing to the point where his chamber accompanists were sometimes inaudible and occasionally damaging the integrity of his wonderful, distinctively reedy bass.

Of course, these quibbles are nothing besides the suffusing pleasure of seeing and hearing musicians right there in the same room – a precious experience to be protected. Thank you, Wigmore, for your great efforts to this end.

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