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Will Fergusson/Archaos Ensemble review: The complex score was executed with the panache and virtuosity for which Will Fergusson is already renowned

PUBLISHED: 16:03 21 December 2018

Will Fergusson. Photo: Courtesy of Vanessa Ventiroso

Will Fergusson. Photo: Courtesy of Vanessa Ventiroso

Courtesy of Vanessa Ventiroso

Local musician Will Fergusson has yet again provided the Norwich public with a performance to remember.

Already well known as a pianist of exceptional talent, the concert given in the recital room last Tuesday [December 18] at Anteros Arts Foundation, highlighted in the guise of the Archaos Ensemble his other gift for imaginative composition.

The first work premiered in the lunchtime programme contained verse specially commissioned by the pianist and read by the author - award-winning Cambridge-based poet Tista Austin.

This wintry sequence for two musicians and speaker, summoning storms and landscape, cunningly negotiated the interface between voice and musical motif - the latter intricately interwoven with the violin which was expertly played by Caroline Bishop.

Taking Schubert’s Winterreise as a touchstone, but also referencing Janáček, Gershwin & Britten, the two musicians calibrated their power and lyricism so as never to overwhelm the declamatory metrical pulse maintained by the speaker.

A highlight of the performance came in the final sequence when the tenor voice of the pianist himself softly emerged in a moving and lyrical tribute to Schubert as he sang the beautiful Die Krähe (The Crow).

The composer should be congratulated for a striking soundworld conjured by this deliberate collision between classical and jubilant poetic lines.

A solo piano sonata by the contemporary composer Sir James Macmillan followed. The complex score, evoking the harsh Ayrshire winter of its author’s native Scotland, was again executed with the panache and virtuosity for which Will Fergusson is already renowned.

Then came his own orginal composition, Noel on ‘Laetabundus’, a festive work filled with rhythmic tracery and bell-like chord sequences.

The concert came to a satisfying conclusion with both musicians summoning the ghost of Vivaldi’s Winter from his ever popular Four Seasons.

This time the theme was Winter, but Will Fergusson and his fellow perfomers have shown quite clearly that any theme can be presented in a way that highlights the interconnectedness of genres.

By exploring the relationship between words and sounds in this innovative way, the Archaos Ensemble have shown that deviating from the traditional recital to favour a more contemporary encounter between disciplines need not leave the audience confused, but rather, as in this case, asking for more.

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