Review: Janus Ensemble Concert

Janus Ensemble play Prokofiev, Ligeti, Ravel
St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden
9th January 2016

Janus Ensemble presented their fifth concert in a series of collaborations involving talented young musicians at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden on Saturday evening. Launching the performance was Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Vivacious playing by soloist to watch, Venetia Jollands, inspired equally spirited orchestral performance, ably handled by conductor, Davide Levi. By turns savagely virtuosic and dreamily intimate, Jollands’ immediate connection with the players hardly needed conducting. Her combination of robust and stylish exuberance provoked spirited music-making from all orchestra sections creating a palpable sense of enjoyment.

The 'vivacious' Venetia Jollands - © Thomas Le Brocq

Ligeti’s Concert Romanesc continued a ‘cut-the-rug’ immediacy in the playing, with assured performances in particular from oboes, bassoons and flutes in solo sections. Accomplished leader Courtenay Cleary was doughty in the solos.

The concert’s second half contrasted dreamy explorations of enchantments from Ravel – the fragmentary Pavane pour une infante defunte, followed by Ma mère l'Oye. Sensitively conducted by Michael Coleby, these reveries allowed exploration of a range of more subtle tonal colours.

Cellist Leo Melvin - © Thomas Le Brocq

The Janus Ensemble is establishing itself as a vibrant addition to London concert life. Made up of talented young professionals, it is a stylish and confident orchestra offering bargain-priced opportunities for audiences to experience music in intimate settings. The mix of established concert repertoire with contemporary commissions or lesser known master works (Peter Sculthorpe’s The Stars Turn was a revelation at an earlier event) is building an interesting identity for Janus Ensemble, which I'm sure it will continue to develop.

Thanks to Faber Music for allowing Janus Ensemble to record and use Sculthorpe's The Stars Turn in their online media.