Reviews

This summer Friends of The Heisenberg Ensemble, St Andrews' own professional orchestra, enjoyed a solo cello recital given by Angela Stevenson... followed by a delicious afternoon tea.

'A real highlight of the summer for me' said one of those present. In the beautiful landscape setting of Hawkhill by Wormit, this was a fund-raising performance in aid of HE's forthcoming concert: Sunday 16 October 2016 in St Salvator's Chapel at 7.30pm.

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It's not every orchestra that can pull of well-nigh faultless performances of Mozart and Haydn symphonies.

The works' technical demands and passages fraught with nerve-wracking exposure, mean they are a stern test to the amateur or semi-professional unit. But it's a test the Heisenberg Ensemble passed with flying colours at a concert in St Andrews' Younger Hall.

Conductor Gillian Craig has an excellent unit of players at her disposal and, content in their ability, she can let the music do the talking. It was played as it should be; with the minimum of fuss. Apart from the SCO, I don't think I've heard as tight and cohesive a performance of Mozart's A major symphony - his 29th - or of Hayden's "Clock" symphony.

There was not one instance of imparity among the strings and the brass and woodwind mirrored this accuracy perfectly.

Sandwiched between this symphonic excellence was another classic, giving the ensemble's leader, Feargus Hetherington, a chance to shine and this he did with aplomb, style, expertise and significant flair.

OK, it wasn't 100% fault free but it was a performance of passion and whole-hearted endeavour. He also captured the mood of every movement, from the serenity and tenderness of the Adagio to the animation of the final Allegro.

Garry Fraser - The Courier 12 March 2015

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"The Heisenberg Ensemble
Concert Sunday 30 September 2012 in the Younger Hall, St Andrews

The Ensemble, very ably led by Rosemary Ellison and equally ably directed by Gillian Craig, coupled two very attractive works -  Beethoven's Overture 'The Creatures of Prometheus' and his First Symphony - with one truly great one, the Mozart G minor Symphony  K550.

The Overture came first - a  grand, stately, sonorous introduction, very nicely shaped, followed by very deft string playing (which was a feature of the whole evening). There was perky woodwind, and excellent support from brass and timpani in the climaxes; the conclusion was very exciting. This was fine chamber orchestra playing -indeed, at 32 players, by an orchestra of the size that Beethoven himself would have been used to.

In the symphony the same virtues applied, with every instrumental voice audible (a special word of praise to the lower reaches of the strings - only two celli and one bass, but they more than pulled their weight). Ensemble was very good indeed and this Haydnesque symphony, wittily written, was always pleasing. The second violins sounded lovely as they opened the second movement, really 'cantabile' as Beethoven wished, and later in the movement, when the same unassuming tune returns and is decorated by the other strings, there was charm and precision. The quite un-danceable so-called Minuet, really a Scherzo, had plenty of personality. Finally the tricky opening of the last movement, often a nervous time for the exposed first violins, was handled with great skill, and they got into their skittery Allegro Molto tune as nicely as ninepence. The contrapuntal passages in the development had real accurate bite and the conclusion, one of those teasing Beethoven endings worked really well. This was a very good and very enjoyable performance.

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After the interval came the Mozart, where the Ensemble applied the same virtues to a very different piece, the most turbulent of Mozart's great final trio of symphonies. The first movement, fairly fast-paced, was energetic rather than wistful. Phrases were nicely shaped, the poignant interjections of the woodwind (particularly Mozart's  characteristic sad bassoon) worked well. The second movement was kept moving, definitely two-in-the-bar, and it had a lovely flowing feel to it - it was perhaps the best thing of the evening, quite beautifully done. Mozart's grim Menuetto, which you could dance to but would never want to, was strong and the contrasting Trio consoling and translucent. Then we had a confident, precise, characterful Finale with excellent interplay among the strings, clean, well-articulated woodwind and horns and lively support from the timpanist. 

In sum, the Ensemble did the music full justice, and though there were some gaps in the Hall, those who were there were well satisfied -applauding, indeed, every movement of both symphonies - and why not? It was certainly good enough."

The St Andrews Citizen - Alastair McFarlane

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