REview: Ryedale Festival, Orsino Ensemble and Katya Apekisheva, Castle Howard, July 24

IN last night’s Ryedale Festival world premiere at Castle Howard, the piece wasn’t new — Rachmaninoff’s Second Suite for two pianos — but the arrangement for piano and wind quintet, commissioned from Iain Farrington, was.

Farrington hasn’t simply borrowed one of Rachmaninoff’s piano parts and arranged the other. By sophisticated reorganisation, he has constructed a convincing work that succeeds on its own terms. Like the original, performing it is not for the faint hearted; Katya Apekisheva and the Orsino Ensemble, comprising some of Britain’s leading wind players, possess the necessary technical prowess.

After conveying desolation, defiance, then acceptance and consolation in the Romance, these performers made the Tarantella finale into the terrifying dance of death it should be. Here, incandescent playing raised the temperature of an already-sultry evening. The faster movements were played so thrillingly swiftly that the chap turning Katya Apekisheva’s pages didn’t have time to sit down!

Other works in the all-Russian programme were similarly engaging. Glinka’s early Trio for piano, clarinet and bassoon filled a convivial quarter of an hour despite its title Pathétique: its scherzo positively glittered. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Quintet for piano and wind, whose finale’s whimsy can be too much of a good thing, was delightfully entertaining.

These musicians clearly relish each other’s company. They pick up on so many innate little musical cues, and collaborate so naturally and instinctively, that the audience feels drawn as conspirators into the creative musical process: what a privilege!

Robert Gammon