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Brighton Year-Round 2019

LIPS Ensemble

LIPS Ensemble: John Cook, Charlotte Woolley, Matthew Sackman, Sabrina Pullen, Rick Yoder, Caroline Whitehead

Genre: Live Music, Music

Venue: Chapel Royal, North Road, Brighton


Low Down

LIPS Wind Ensemble, here a Sextet, gave performances of Matyas Seiber’s Serenade and Mozart’s Serenade in E Flat K375 in its original version.


The annual visit of the LIPS Wind Ensemble turns up wonderfully unusual fare: last year several American compositions (it’s big over there in the Universities). And here a slightly different line-up to reflect the main piece on their programme today, the Mozart. So two each of clarinets, horns and bassoons, no oboes. And that’s what both the Mozart and the piece preceding it were written for. This time the line-up was:


Clarinets – John Cook, Charlotte Woolley

Horns – Matthew Sackman, Sabrina Pullen

Bassoons – Rick Yoder, Caroline Whitehead


The Sextet first gave a performance of Matyas Seiber’s Serenade. Seiber, a Hungarian born in 1905 emigrated like his teacher Bartok but to the UK, and died prematurely in a car-crash in 1960.


There’s an Allegro, full of Bartokian modernism flickering over dissonant Hungarian folksong material. But it’s an idiom Seiber was eminently at home with even when he emigrated to the UK and used others like Greek Folksongs. Seiber’s raspy language has also a charm, a proportion: his work’s usually in neat, almost neoclassical sections.


The Lento is hypnotically subdued, barely tracing its tread as it moves through a nocturnal full of long-breathed notes, hauntingly refusing to change tempo significantly or provide contrasts. The Allegro Vivace finale has a perky face-the-music-and-dance quality, the mood not the Porter song. It might be marked Allegro Vivace but it’s full of stops, starts lugubrious interjections and a kind of alla marcia rhythm. If bassoons are traditionally jokers, they get a work-out here. And a coda of very different, high-jinks, almost menacing proportions. LIPS bite this zesty work to its core.


Mozart’s Serenade No 11 in E Flat K375 in its original version is still in five movements; indeed it’s only the addition of oboes that mark out the revised version as these became available to Mozart for another performance. The first movement Allegro maestoso – a slow dignified sotto voce introduction with tis melting e flat descending tune – is possibly the greatest moment of any of Mozart’s wind pieces. There’s incident and intensity in the first movement to the extent that the following perky Menuetto 1 – an attractive, gentle call-and-refrain piece of simple charm with a dark undertow in the trio is under-appreciated. The incident-light Adagio too is under-estimated. But it sustains a dignified meditation that grows as you listen: it’s like a gently lamenting aria, understated but memorable.


The second Menuetto by contrast is rich in scherzo-like jokes and rustic, even rough humour. And the finale a rumbustious Allegro is the antithesis of the opening majestic Maestoso – it’s irreverent, like the preceding movement, and even more heltering like a quick-march, with brisk heavy accents and a skirling set of counter-melodies. Terrific bustling and something for even somnolent outdoor court flirters to startle into.


What’s special is the close-up exploration of the original version’s dense sonorities, which LIPS deliver: it owns a narrower rich sonority without the oboes, and less of a rustic feel to it.


LIPS are consummate and pretty well flawless. Their exploratory way with repertoire and even line-ups gifts them and us an almost inexhaustible set of sonic possibilities. We really should hear them more often. Unique and uniquely lively in their field.