Ryedale Festival: Roxanna Panufnik; Helmsley Arts Centre, July 21

RYEDALE'S happy tradition of having a composer in residence continues this year with Roxanna Panufnik, who is on record as saying that she writes what she likes to listen to. That sums up her refreshing, down-to-earth approach, something we can all identify with.

In interview with Katy Hamilton, she came across as friendly and warm-hearted, revelling in her success without letting it go to her head. We knew we would like her music before we had heard a note of it. Seven musicians including the young Treske Ensemble – a string quartet – were on hand to offer a representative sampling.

Second Home, based on a Polish folk-song, uses a mainly slow pulse and dark colours to speak of late-blooming violets in the forest. A seemingly innocent chord in string quartet and piano melted into change; textures grew angry and staccato before regaining calm. Rosamond Thomas’s rich mezzo did the rest.

Thomas also sang Virtue, a duet with Michael Pandya’s piano, which was written in memory of Roxanna's father Sir Andrzej Panufnik, also a composer, who died in 1991. The piano’s insistent thrum injected new life into the George Herbert poem. Love Sought added Ben Kearsley’s eloquent viola to this pairing, which most effectively evoked Viola’s soliloquy from Twelfth Night. Thomas handled its flowing lines majestically.

Reports by the BBC’s Fergal Keane underlay Letters from Burma (2004), for oboe and string quartet, where James Turnbull joined the Treskes. Its opening was deceptive, with oboe winding plaintively over string chords. ‘Snaps’ in the strings conjured prisoners beating on their cages. The whole quintet then danced, the tessitura getting ever higher and more manic, ending in an abrupt unison to powerful effect.

Martin Dreyer