Wednesday, October 20, 2021

 

REVIEW: Waterford-Music presents Mairéad Hickey and Agnes Clement at Garter Lane

 

THERE’S a big house for Waterford-Music’s first live concert since the Lockdown and there’s a buzz along the lane into the Arts Centre. The formerly named Waterford Music Club has a devoted band of followers who have remained loyal to the classical music group through economic crashes, wars and now a pandemic, and they are absolutely delighted to be back where they have been, listening to quality playing, for almost a century.

Waterford-Music President Elizabeth Twohig receives a heroine’s welcome when she comes onstage to announce tonight’s concert and her invitation to ‘let the music begin’ brings immediate and sustained applause.

Violinist Mairéad Hickey from Cork and French harpist Agnes Clément receive rock-star welcomes before even a note is played. It’s clearly going to be a good night and the players are in high spirits. Laughs come throughout the evening as they introduce their programme with anecdotes that are as interesting as they are humorous.

 

‘Young French harpist, Agnès Clément is forging a reputation as one of the most exciting and original soloists of her instrument’

 

It’s not often we get to hear a harp in a full programme because of the difficulties surrounding the instrument. The classical concert harp is the largest instrument in an orchestra. It’s heavy, expensive and so large that it needs a van to transport it along with a truck to wheel it into the venue. And that’s a lot of commitment. Drummers in bands often complain of the same problem.

Both players have performance histories to die for. As a soloist Mairéad has performed with the RTÉ Irish National Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Irish National Concert Orchestra and a host of other concert orchestras, including the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Camerata Ireland in headline venues. She also plays traditional Irish music and has won eight world Irish fiddle titles. Mairéad was named Irish NCH Young Musician of the Year 2010-2012 and graduated last year with a Masters in Performance from Kronberg Academy.

Young French harpist, Agnès Clément is forging a reputation as one of the most exciting and original soloists of her instrument. She is currently solo harp at the Symphony Orchestra of the Royal Opera La Monnaie in Bruxelles. Since her solo debuts at the Salle Gaveau in Paris, at the Lyon & Healy Concert Hall in Chicago, and at the Berlin Philharmonie, Agnès Clément has been regularly invited to perform as a soloist with orchestras all over the world and has already two albums under her belt.

I’m not surprised. Clément’s playing is a joy and the audience just love her infectious performance. She’s a musician of exceptional talent whose astonishing virtuosity, alongside an ability to deliver performances brimming with full-blooded passion, has won her widespread acclaim.

The programme is just right. A Louis Spohr sonata for fiddle and harp is full of colour and contrast with sumptuous melodies from the violin supported by delicate, almost anecdotal comments from the harp. A new composition from the pen of Dubliner John McClachlan carries a hint of tension and anxiety that sets the audience thinking. Luigi Tedeschi’s ‘Elegia’ does what it says on the tin. It’s a delicious miniature of contrasting emotions that mix sweet sentiment of times past with tender passions of today that sends us into a short interval.

The second half of the programme is dominated by tales of knights of old and chivalric quests for love that are routed by malevolent crones or spirits that usually end in death. While not exactly the mot juste in terms of happy send-offs, the romance of composers Henriette Renié’s ‘Legende d’apres les Elfes’ and the folksong quality of Pauline Viardot’s ‘Hai Luli’ is a winner with the audience. Mairéad Hickey excels in Massanet’s ‘Mediation from Thais’ and the Camille Saint-Saens’s ‘Fantasie in A Major’ is just the ticket to send us home full of cheer on a splendid autumn night.

A first-class concert from Mairéad Hickey on violin and Agnes Clément on piano produced by Music Network and hosted by Waterford-Music.

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By Pat McEvoy, Arts Correspondent
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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