REVIEWS 2001-2012


Kings Place November 2010

**** "Although the animal kingdom has always been a prominent source of musical inspiration, the whale is a relative newcomer. Inspired by recordings of humpback whales, George Crumb's 1971 Vox Balaenae, which requires its performers to wear masks, broke muzoological boundaries using an amplified trio of flute, cello and piano. It also calls for a range of techniques novel at the time of its creation, including the simultaneous playing of and singing into the flute in a kind of free imitation of whale song.

On paper it sounds like a deeply suspicious exercise in hippy kitsch, but heard live it rarely fails to bowl one over. This is less due to Crumb's success in depicting the ancient sadness that runs through our encounters with whales than the work's seamless musicality: peel away Crumb's web of symbols and you are left with a beautifully proportioned and beguiling set of variations, and a powerful sense of flow between instruments.

In this respect, Vox Balanae proved an excellent partner to a new trio for piano, violin and cello by Philip Cashian. Entitled Aquila after the swooping eagle found in John Flamsteed's 1729 Atlas Coelestis, its merits do not really derive from any imitation of eagles actual or imagined (perhaps luckily, given that Flamsteed's eagle resembles a grouse). Instead, it thrives ona thrilling combination of precariously balanced mechanical processes, an intuitive chamber dynamic, and occasional fleeting but hard-won moments of rhapsody.

Like much of Cashian's music it makes extreme demands on its players, but the CHROMA ensemble were equal to them. Particularly impressive, both in Aquila and the earlier Caprichos, was the way the players skated so lightly on Cashian's many-layered syncopations, allowing the music to exude a tantalising playfulness.

It leaves you feeling exhilarated, if a little clumsy by comparison."
Guy Dammann The Guardian

"They (CHROMA) are great at emphasising the drama in music that uses just a few gestures to create its effect. They are also good at finding all the subtle gradations between homogeneous textures and wildly divergent counterpoint. In general though, neither composer deals in subtleties, and the wild excesses of each – the amplified minutiae of Crumb and the extreme syncopations of Cashian's rhythms – were all presented here with confidence and precision.... 'Caprichos' is a great work to close a concert, a tour de force both in compositional and performance terms. 
Gavin Dixon - full review 

"At long last I made it to King’s Place, the new(ish) arts complex near King’s Cross in London. I am ashamed it has taken me so long, but well worth the trip to hear the amazing CHROMA chamber ensemble playing music by George Crumb and Philip Cashian.
They made for a contrasting programme. Cashian’s music is hyperactive, restless and vigorous while Crumb’s is ethereal, elliptical and fragmented. I have always loved his Vox Balaenae in which the voice of the whale is recreated through whistling, cello harmonics and underwater sounds from the inside of the piano. After twenty minutes of a full range of extended instrumental techniques, the moment when the cello breaks into a yearning, full-toned melody is very powerful.
Philip Cashian’s Aquila, for clarinet, cello and piano was a striking premiere. There were typical lop-sided rhythms, an elastic sense of pulse and muscular melodies. Often the instruments were like three distinct characters talking across each other, occasionally coming together for a concerted statement or quizzical enquiry. Stuart King, CHROMA’s artistic director and clarinettist, described Cashian’s Caprichos ‘one of our favourites, but also a nemesis piece’, and it is extremely virtuosic. King gave a quicksilver performance, particularly on the groovy bass clarinet licks, capturing their improvisatory spirit. This is a formidable ensemble at the top of its game, and this concert was as imaginatively programmed as it was scintillatingly played."

Bernard Hughes - full review here - 

La Cenerentola

Iford Opera Festival June/July 2010
Produced by CHROMA - Director Bill Bankes-Jones, conductor Andrew Griffiths

"Less was definitely more with this Bill Bankes-Jones production. He and his designer Tim Meacock sensibly allowed the quiet charm of Iford's Italianate cloister to speak for itself... no gimmicks, just the sparkle of Rossini's music and the energy of lively ensemble-work to create a natural momentum. Rejecting the canopy in favour of a velvet evening sky helped cast an altogether idyllic spell...It was a reminder that there is almost nothing to beat the magic of Iford at its intimate best."
Rian Evans, OPERA Sep 10

“Supported by vivacious playing from the ensemble CHROMA under Andrew Griffiths, it shone with gentle charm”
Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph

“The score comes across with great verve, clarity and elegance in Andrew Griffiths’s conducting of the CHROMA ensemble, every one a virtuoso, of whom Tom Hankey (violin) stands out for energy and style. Griffiths paces things brilliantly, not afraid to draw out a yearning strain that is often lost in the welter of Rossinian ebullience, but equally driving the ensembles along with scary speed. This was something special.” 
Robert Thicknesse, The Tablet

Barber of Seville

Iford Opera Festival June/July 2009
Director André Heller-Lopez, conductor Andrew Griffiths
***** "Productions such as this could single-handedly reverse opera’s dwindling fortunes if performed in a city square. Rather than any rarefied high-art ideal, it is the upfront, street-theatre feel of this 1960s-set production of Rossini’s opera buffa that imbues it with knee-weakening charm... this is a cast that oozes youthful charisma. Add the zingy playing of chamber ensemble CHROMA and the stunning setting, and you have an unparalleled pleasure from start to finish." 
Anna Britten, MetroLife 25 June 2009

Black Angels

Cardiff February 2009

**** "George Crumb's seminal work Black Angels began as an examination of the polarity between the devil and God and ended up as an anti-war statement. In a programme exploring the nature of conflict, CHROMA have used Crumb's quartet as the backdrop for four new pieces. It was thought-provoking, not least because it came just days after Guantánamo detainees had spoken at Cardiff University.
Matthew Sansom's calming electro-acoustic prelude, muraqabah, made the tone of Dai Fujikura's Poison Mushroom for solo flute and electronics all the more potent. Kathryn Thomas's sharply focused playing conveyed the terror of the Hiroshima bombing, with the pitter-patter of contaminated raindrops and the flute's dying breaths the most potent of all.
Julian Grant's septet, Strike Opponent's Ears With Both Fists, based on a fundamental of Taijiquan martial arts, moves from a point of stillness to a powerful engagement of his forces. By contrast, John Cooney's sextet, Songlines, progressed from the unison of strings, flute and clarinet to more independently asserted lines.
Arlene Sierra's sextet Surrounded Ground was a 2008 commission by the exemplary CHROMA. Sierra reflects her disquiet at the militarism of her native US by using instruments to mirror a strategy from Sun Tzu's military treatise The Art of War. In the fast-firing Egress, the last of the three movements, the conviction reaches an intense peak.
All four works reinforced the impact of the Crumb quartet, hauntingly delivered by the CHROMA players, its ghostly quotations a gentle chiding of man's inability to learn from the past. " 

Rian Evans, The Guardian February 2009

On Spital Fields - A Community Cantata

composer Jonathan Dove, libretto Alasdair Middleton
(winner of the RPS Music Award 2006 for Education) 
Christ Church, Spitalfields Festival June 2005

"Musical alchemy creates perfect gem... a brilliant kaleidoscope of colour and mood, zestful and touching in equal measure, its exhilarating performance here a glowing tribute to the community spirit." 
Geoffrey Norris in The Telegraph 

"This brilliant 75-minute cantata is the best piece of community music-making I have seen in several years ... Dove also used the chamber ensemble CHROMA to produce both sinister shadows and moments of ethereal beauty, including one exquisitely calm, quasi-Elizabethan song for solo soprano and harp." 
The Times 

"At the medieval priory of Ewenny in Bridgend, it is as much the resonance of history as the acoustic that makes concerts such a vivid experience. On September 6, the players of the ensemble CHROMA used the reverberance to their advantage, creating some fine tone colours and harmonics: first in John Cooney's Chasing Shadows and then in the String Quartet no.2, Ring of Waves, by Gabriel Jackson. Here first violinist Marcus Barcham-Stevens brought a soaring beauty to phrases reminiscent of the pastoral ecstasy of Vaughan Williams.
CHROMA's cellist Clare O'Connell gave an evocative performance of two movements from Peter Reynolds' Suite for Cello: her tender tone lent a poignant edge to the lyrical barcarolle, while the eerie but atmospheric moto perpetuo was well controlled." 

Rian Evans in the STRAD - December 2004


Ed Hughes at the Brighton Festival May 2004

"CHROMA played with an unabashed and infectious passion... A fine example of the hidden gems the Festival can occasionally produce, a huge standing ovation came as no great surprise. More, please!"
This is Brighton and Hove

"The remarkable young chamber group CHROMA"
Birmingham Post - April 2003 - Bromsgrove 'Mixing Music' series

"Taking the disturbing grotesqueries of Goya's Los Caprichos as its starting-point, this sparky piece accumulates great kinetic energy. Violin, cello and the hyperactive piano often provide percussive effects to season the occasional long-breathed melody from clarinet and violin, and the whole piece exploits with tremendous success the natural empathy of the CHROMA players, to whom it is dedicated."
Birmingham Post - April 2003 - world première of Caprichos by Philip Cashian

"Featuring three wind soloists in turn, (Ritual Songs and Blessings) proved to be a beautifully constructed composition for seven musicians from the excellent young group CHROMA"
The Independent - June 20002 - Spitalfields Festival commission by Joseph Phibbs

"CHROMA could give such groups as the Nash and Endymion a run for their money...the cause of new music needs advocates like these" 
Daily Telegraph - January 2001 - on CHROMA's South Bank debut

"The mixed ensemble CHROMA showed itself quite a find too - the Nash and Endymion had better start watching out"
Classical Source - January 2001

"Ensemble playing of incomparable splendour"
Huddersfield Examiner 2001

"Technically skilled and polished, the five young CHROMA instrumentalists were outstanding"
Sheffield Telegraph - 2000

"A fine sense of ensemble" 
Daily Telegraph - 2001


Blaise le Savetier and L'amant Jaloux 

Bampton @ St John's Smith Square Sep 2012

"Seated behind the performers, the musicians of CHROMA performed with grace and lightness"
Claire Seymour, Opera Today

Arvo Pärt Passio 

at Westminster Abbey 3 April 2012
**** "Performing at the head of the Abbey's shallow nave, the choir and their accompanists – the excellent new-music ensemble CHROMA – also lent an unexpected intimacy to the proceedings. In recordings, Pärt's vocal music of this period often sounds like a wash of voices and instruments, but listening live I was struck by the suspended intensity of the play between individual instruments and singers, and by the challenge – well met by all – of preserving the all-important flow of Pärt's undulations." 
Guy Dammann, The Guardian


music Tarik O'Regan, words Tom Phillips ROH2/Opera East production at ROH Linbury November 2011

"Gooch was superbly served by the instrumentalists of CHROMA, whose accuracy, energy and mastery of various idioms, and sensitivity to the singers and the text, was exemplary...a thrilling new work" 
Opera Today

"this is a terrific new work, intelligently staged and magnificently performed by some fine singers and by the richly committed instrumentalists of CHROMA." 

"CHROMA, under Oliver Gooch, equip themselves admirably, their timbre maintaining a wonderful bite." 

"Underpinning all this is a score of concise originality. Restless, leaping woodwind propel the narrative through the murky waters of the Congo, while interesting combinations of sonorities – double bass and classical guitar, for instance – trickle and bubble through the music. Just 14 instrumentalists keep the singers afloat on this quirkily beautiful raft, expertly steered by conductor Oliver Gooch." 
The Observer


David Bruce/Marcus Barcham-Stevens

Tete a Tete: The Opera Festival Riverside Studios August 2011

“a programme of two works for soprano and ensemble given by CHROMA under the astute baton of Christopher Austin. The translucent voice of Sadhbh Dennedy floated gracefully through Marcus Barcham- Stevens's intricate Chinese settings, Dhyana, a tribute to Mahler's Song of the Earth; and David Bruce's brilliantly scored, folk-inspired The North Wind Was a Woman. Both were hugely impressive.” 
The Times

Hansel and gretel

Iford Festival, June 2011

“CHROMA’s excellent ensemble of instrumentalists… it’s enchanting, as Hansel & Gretel should be – it’s exciting too” 
The Times


Shoreditch Church for Spitalfields Festival, May 2011

“played with tremendous virtuosity and focus” 
The Guardian


Linbury Studio at ROH, April 2011

"Playing of zest from CHROMA" 
Financial Times
"deftly played by CHROMA - very tasty!" 
The Opera Critic

Winter Wonderland

"Set amongst a number of local festive concerts, reflections and carols by candlelight, CHROMA completed their Winter Wonderland series of Music for Christmas with a stunning evening of Skempton and Bach at Warwick's warmest venue – the Unitarian Chapel.
...Fine viola (Rose Redgrave)/cello (Clare O'Connell) duets were supported by Emily Davis's strong violin playing – all blending so well. They were joined by accomplished accordion player, Howard Skempton, for three Bach Chorales - the added accordion enabled the performance of the four-part harmonisation of these tunes and brought an evening of truly remarkable playing to a thoroughly pleasing climax. Verdict: A gem of an evening"

Leamington Courier Jan 09

The Cumnor Affair

composed by Philip Cashian, libretto by Iain Pears
with Tête à Tête opera company November 2008

“Much of the character is within the tiny orchestra (CHROMA, half visible throughout), with wind instruments carrying the mystery, percussion the menace” 
Nick Kimberley Evening Standard

“Cashian’s skill is to mke the true mystery that of the human heart. His score, for CHROMA’s tiny ensemble of seven players, conducted by Tim Murray, is an electrocardiogram of Dudley’s heart, torn between a wife he loves and a Queen he adores.
Counterpointing his own long lines, first of ennui, then of impassioned mourning, is a sinister spooking of percussion, and a tense cross-hatching of violin, cello, flute and clarinet, as the courtiers William Cecil and Sir Francis Walsingham play out their own equally dark and complex loyalties.” 

Hilary Finch, The Times

Blind Date

six opera shorts, with Tête à Tête opera company November 2007

"expert playing from the ensemble CHROMA under Tim Murray's alert baton "
George Hall, The Guardian, Nov 2007

"The progeny of speed-dated librettists and composers as workshopped at Tete a Tete’s inaugural opera festival last August, Blind Date emerges now as polished full-length entertainment. Its six components, expertly projected by singers, ensemble and musical director Tim Murray are economically but memorably presented on a sparsely furnished open stage suffused with red light. "
David Gutman, The Stage, Nov 2007 

Odysseus Unwound

composed by Julian Grant, libretto by Hattie Naylor
with Tête à Tête opera company, October-November 2006

"the top-notch chamber ensemble CHROMA" 
Erica Jeal, The Guardian 

"so beautifully played by CHROMA under Tim Murray, and so very well sung and acted that this shoe-string touring production is a must-see"
Anna Picard, The Independent 


On CHROMA's CD on RiverRun records:

"**** - finely played by the ensemble CHROMA"
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE - December 2001

"A very welcome arrival on the chamber music scene...their excellent playing and interpretation is apparent throughout"

"CHROMA's performance is exquisite...this is a CD for playing on a balmy summer evening with figs and Chablis to hand"