Saturday 1 February 2020

Launching 12 Ensemble's 'Death and the Maiden' CD at Shoreditch Town Hall

12 Ensemble at Shoreditch Town Hall
12 Ensemble at Shoreditch Town Hall
This seems to have been something of a week for 12 Ensemble on the blog, today we published my interview with composer Alex Hills chatting about his new disc OutsideIn which features the ensemble, and on Thursday 30 January 2020, 12 Ensemble held a launch event for its latest CD, Death and the Maiden on PIAS, at Shoreditch Town Hall.

Founded in 2012 by artistic directors Eloisa-Fleur Thom (violin) and Max Ruisi (cello), 12 Ensemble is an un-conducted string orchestra founded on a core of 12 players (four first violins, three second violins, two violas, two cellos and double bass). Their repertoire ranges from the standard classics to new commissions, and performances aim to go beyond the traditional concert venue and format. The group is quite a tightly knit ensemble and something of a family affair, the line-up on the CD features two of Max Ruisi's brothers as well as members of the Ruisi Quartet (led by Alessandro Ruisi in which Max also plays).

At Shoreditch Town Hall we heard two items from the new disc along with two which were going to feature in the group's concert in Nantes the following day (!). We started with a movement from Beethoven's String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95,'Serioso' in a highly effective, and highly dramatic, version for string orchestra. This was followed by Caroline Shaw's Blueprint which is itself a conversation with Beethoven, with his String Quartet Op.18, No.6. Next came a piece by composer Oliver Leith, a movement from his Honey Siren which is also on the CD. Finally, came an arrangement of a song by the Icelandic band Sigur Rós, a tribute to the ensemble's residency in Iceland.

Hearing 12 Ensemble live is a vivid and engaging experience, whilst they are keen on breaking the bounds of traditional music making the players' commitment to the music is intense and what you get is a string orchestra with a chamber music sense of freedom, intensity and communication. I certainly look forward to hearing their version of Schubert's String Quartet No. 14 'Death and the Maiden', which is the centrepiece of the new disc, live though having played it extensively before recording the disc they have temporarily put it to bed. The version of the Schubert quartet that the group performs is not the Mahler one, they experimented with that but with its alteration of Schubert's dynamics and articulation they found it rather much of its period and so the group created its own version.

DEATH AND THE MAIDEN 2020 from 12 ensemble on Vimeo.

Death and the Maiden, the 12 Ensemble in John Tavener's The Lamb, Schubert's String quartet No. 14 'Death and the Maiden' arr 12 Ensemble, Oliver Leith's Honey Siren and Sigur Rós' Fljótavik, arr Button is on PIAS and available from Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. In an era of cheap streaming, I rarely purchase music but I made an exception of 12 Ensemble's Death and the Maiden, which is compelling and haunting, even through ear-buds.


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