Review: Claire Martin and the Montpellier 'Cello Quartet at Kings Place

Claire Martin with the Montpellier 'Cello Quartet
KingsPlace, March 2014. Photo credit: Roger Thomas

Claire Martin and the Montpellier 'Cello Quartet
(Kings Place Hall One. 22nd March 2014. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Claire Martin's four-'cello project moves on apace. First Claire wrote a preview explaining the concept and background. (HERE). Then, just under a year ago it had its delayed premiere performance in Brighton (see report). It first came to London for the London Jazz Festival (reviewed). There is now talk of an album in September.

At each outing, newly-crafted arrangements emerge. The listener marvels at Claire Martin's ability and determination to create a wholly new pad of repertoire from zero. One of the very first, the arrangement of Kurt Weill's My Ship by Richard Rodney Bennett, played at the beginning of the programme is - as I wrote in November - pretty close to perfection, and sets the bar for subsequent efforts impossibly high. Nevertheless, the two arrangements premiered on Saturday didn't disappoint.

Some have long gestation times, such as a remarkable and very affecting new song written - words and lyrics - and arranged by Geoffrey Keezer called Featherfall. It is a song about a musician missing the family during time on the road. The performance revealed another one of Claire Martin's strengths: she seemed to own and inhabit the new song completely, and as if it had been around for ever. 

Another novelty had a different birth-route. The news that Kate Bush is about to go on tour for the first time since the 1970's inspired Claire Martin to cajole a new arrangement of The Man With The Child In His Eyes from Peter Davidson, the husband of one of the 'cellists, at very short notice. It was another highlight.

One small quibble: Kings Place Hall One really is at its best as an acoustic hall, and the level of amplification of this intimate-scale music at first felt over-powering, and took quite a bit of getting used to. That, however, was the only blot on a very enjoyable evening. 

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