Chamber Ensemble ‘Musici Ireland’ at the National Concert Hall on 7 August 2014

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Up-and-coming chamber ensemble, ‘Musici Ireland’, open their concert series with a trio of delectable musical delights. This eclectic group boasts the collective talents of Bethan Watkeys (horn), Helena Wood (violin), Anita Vedres (violin), Beth McNinch (viola), Errika Collins(viola), and Grainne Hope (cello). Charles Villiers Standford’s Fantasy for Horn and String Quartet (1922) heads this afternoon’s programme. Described as “one of the hidden gems of late-Romantic chamber music” this dramatic work is slowly gaining recognition through its inclusion in the Irish concert repertoire. With its possible allusions to Mozart in its scoring, Stanford’s quintet illustrates his orchestral prowess for balancing such an interesting collage of instruments.

The introductory agitated rhythmic motif sets the scene for this charismatic work. From the onset, the horn and cello strike up a charming rapport as they establish the work’s central harmonic strand. The tempo here is well chosen, albeit slightly tentative. A unified expression of concentration among the players contributes to an inherently sophisticated sound. For the most part, each instrument maintains a secure balance of tone against the horn. However, there are moments when the music yearns for a more diverse depth of expression. Nonetheless, Stanford would be pleased with today’s interpretation.

Following an enthusiastic response from the audience of the John Field Room, the ensemble shifts to string quartet mode in preparation for their performance of Mozart’s fourth quartet. Written as part of the six Milanese Quartets (1772–1773), the players take to this piece with style and ease. Each instrument weaves seamlessly between melodic lines, with prudently matched articulation and phrasing. Here, Wood’s performance is particularly noteworthy, as her mastery of the violin shines throughout. Musici Ireland’s musical chemistry and combined technical prowess contributes to an intelligent and stylistically superb rendering of this string quartet.

Today’s concert concludes with Mozart’s Horn Quintet (c. 1782). Originally written for the Austrian horn player Joseph Leutgeb, this work toys with the standard quartet layout by using 1 violin, 2 violas and a cello. The result is a rather beautiful mellow sonority when combined with the tonal capacities of the horn. Watkey’s playing is inviting as she handles the complexities of Mozart’s music with confidence. Her pitching is mostly solid against the sultry temperature of the room. The predominantly male dominated audience rewards the ensemble with joyous appreciation.

The play list for this concert reflects Musici Ireland’s diverse talents and musical capabilities. We look forward to their next venture.


Stanford: Fantasy for Horn Quintet in A minor
Mozart: String Quartet No. 4 in C major, K. 157
Mozart: Horn Quintet in E flat major, K. 407″

Review by Emer Nestor for Goldenplec


Working with a real living composer!

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We have been very lucky at Musici Ireland to strike up a friendship with Wexford based (and IFTA nominated!)composer Liam Bates. We have performed his wonderful string composition “Vivo” several times now and can genuinely say what a wonderful challenge it has been each time. What makes it easy though, is to actually work alongside Liam during these rehearsals and performances. It is such a privilege to see a composer’s passion and energy in front of you and we cannot help but be infected by his energy and groove! You can hear a recording of this piece on our website.

Liam writes challenging music that is filled with melody and emotion, a fact made beautifully obvious in a recent concert given by Wexford Sinfonia, in which Beth, Dianne and Bethan were invited to participate in . This was the world premiere of “Heroes of the Helen Blake” and this review from the Irish Examiner says it all:

“It was a compelling evening, brimming with emotion, as Wexford Sinfonia orchestra premiered a new work, Heroes of the Helen Blake, by Liam Bates, to a capacity house. The concert marked the centenary of the sinking of the Norwegian vessel, The Mexico, off the Wexford coast and the bravery of the lifeboat crew. Author Eoin Colfer read from his late father’s account of the tragedy.

The work in five movements was full of colour and drama, written in a rich, post-Romantic, film-score style. The parallels with Vaughan Williams were apparent in the use of sea shanties. The hymn tune, ‘Hail Queen of Heaven,’ was the main theme of the opening movement, and was echoed later. The second movement, ‘Strength and Grace’, opened with the clearer texture of a solo clarinet line set against scurrying string motifs and delicate, harp accompaniment.

An unusual battery of percussion instruments created the dark, menacing mood of the third movement. The clang of a ship’s propeller, rusty metal plates and a ship’s bell rang out several times. Bass-drum rolls, and a poignant horn solo, evoked the ‘Vale of Tears’ in the fourth movement. In the final movement, a male voice choir rose to sing a simple unison setting of the composer’s poem, ‘To Bring Them Home’. This was exciting, well-crafted symphonic writing, teeming with ideas.”


Musici Ireland are very much looking forward to working with Liam again in their July 23rd concert in Wexford.

Wells house

Bringing Chamber Music Home

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This is an idea we are currently developing. We would like to develop a network of “Hosts” who have the space in their home to present a small chamber concert. This is by no means a new idea; after all, this would be how chamber music would have always been heard back in the day. However, in today’s difficult climate, where it is often a struggle to break even at concerts and to even be able to afford a venue, we feel this could be the perfect way to move forward. The basic premise is that the host can either fund the concert themselves, perhaps for a very special occasion, inviting friends and family along. Alternatively, they may have a small group of like minded friends who would be happy to share the cost to experience such an intimate performance. A huge part of this would be to then meet and talk with the musicians, perhaps over a meal or a glass of wine, to really break down the barrier between audience and performer. If you are interested in hosting a concert, or know someone who might be suitable, please contact us at


Take me to your Leader!

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Helena Wood has appeared as guest director for 2 of our string chamber concerts in the last 6 months as well as stepping in at short notice to perform with us at Kaleidascope Night in the Odessa Club, Dublin in a performance of Mozart String Quintet No. 2. As the newly appointed Concert Master of the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, we are absolutely delighted to announce that Helena has officially become a member of Musici Ireland!

Helena is a wonderfully warm and generous person who brings a sense of calm to every room she enters. She is also, of course, a phenomenal violinist and musician and we are truly honoured and excited to welcome her on board. We are looking forward to working closely with Helena during our NCH Lunchtime concert series in August.