Review of Palmerston North concert

Fine musicians explore European classical music on period instruments.

Reviewed by Stephen Fisher in Manawatu Standard, 8 May 2018

The intimate surrounds of the Awhina Room in Caccia Birch proved to be the perfect venue for last Sunday evening's concert by Hammers and Horsehair, an ensemble dedicated to presenting early 19th century European classical music played on period instruments.

The original ensemble was a duo consisting of Douglas Mews performing on an authentic square piano and Robert Ibell on the cello, the latter having grown up in Palmerston North. However, for their 2018 tour, they have been joined by soprano Rowena Simpson, allowing them to explore the vocal music of the period for which they have become such strong advocates.

The programme featured works by Schubert, Schumann, Beethoven and the little-known Jan Kalivoda, opening with Schubert's The Shepherd on the Rock, which introduced us to the beautiful sounds of this trio, enhanced by the gentle acoustics of the room. Beethoven's gorgeous Sonata in A major for piano and cello completed the first half, an exhilarating performance from two players in tune with each other.

The second half allowed us to take in the sounds of the square piano as Mews gave an evocative performance of selections from Schumann's Scenes from Childhood. Ibell and Mews gave us two delightful Schubert songs before Jackson returned to the concert platform for the three wonderful Kalivoda songs.

This was a memorable evening in the presence of fine musicians.