‘Night at the Museum’
Spitalfields Festival. Royal Academy of Music students
Geffrye Museum. 9 June 2015
In a nice collaboration between the Royal Academy of Music, the Geffrye Museum and Spitalfields Festival, RAM students gave mini-concerts in three different spaces of the museum, reflecting the museum’s history, the various historic rooms and contemporary music making, with all three events including a newly composed work. The student performers were Tabea Debus, recorders, Iosif Purits, accordion, and the Achille Trio. The three concerts were based on the period 1714, 1914 and 2014.
Tabea Debus played her own arrangement of extracts from Bach’s 2nd and 5th French Suites, followed by Alula, a new work by Cydonie Banting, written to contrast the tiny sopranino and the RAM’s rather curious looking new bass recorder. Transferring the Bach from the harpsichord to a single line instrument meant additional work for Tabea Debus in articulating the melodic line and the implied underlying pulse. She managed both very well, as with the sometimes tricky balance between volume and intonation. The new piece was a complex technical exercise for her, with flutter-tonguing, harmonics and having to switch between two diametrically opposed recorders. But her playing, and the piece itself, were both exemplary.
The Achille Trio (Silvija Ščerbavičiūtė, flute, Uilleac Whelan, viola, Linda Šimanauskaitė, harp) playing Debussy’s evocative Sonata for flute, viola and harp. The three players blended together brilliantly, giving the music the feel of snatches of overheard conversation. Timothy Tate’s The space in between had a rhapsodic structure with some very difficult coordination and technical issues for the performers, all dealt with well, including sudden silences, which must have been scary.
Accordian player Iosif Purits played John Woolrich’s Dum spiro, sperob, his own transcription of Bartók’s Six Romanian Folk Dances and Ashil Mistry’s new work for accordion, Toil & Weave, the latter based on a video of weaver ants. Classical accordion playing is not often experienced, so this was a wonderful introduction to the versatility of this extraordinary instrument.
Members of the museum staff gave a brief history of the Geffyre Museum before each concert. Built as an almshouse in 1714 by the Ironmongers’ Guild after a bequest from Sir Robert Geffrye, it closed in 1911 when the foundation moved out of London. After a campaign by members of the Arts and Crafts movement, the historic building (and important gardens) re-opened in 1914 as a museum to show the work of local furniture makers. It now features rooms in period style.