War and solace

A postcard from the Borders: the Nescio Ensemble, and a tribute to Barış Yazgı

By Christopher Ryan | April 29, 2017


In the increasingly dystopian political atmosphere of an emerging populist world order, older and more essential human values were aired on Thursday night when the Amsterdam-based string ensemble, Nescio, performed for a full house in Cornucopia’s new venue for the arts, Unit Four, in Hawick in the Scottish Borders, followed on Friday evening at nearby Chisholme House.

The overture for the evening presented some familiar, and audience-friendly pieces including quintets from Beethoven and Mozart. Then Nescio Ensemble took us back in time to a time when war was still portrayed musically as a romantic–heroic–tragic movement, performing the ‘Battalia’ of the 17th-century Austrian violinist and composer Heinrich von Biber.

The Turkish composer Fazil Say’s piece for string quartet ‘Divorce’ was prefaced by the ensemble’s Turkish violinist Burcu Ramazanoğlu’s sad announcement of the death of Barış Yazgı. This young Turkish violinist hopeful was among a group of Syrian refugees drowned this week while crossing the Aegean. It was a poignant introduction to Fazil Say’s piece, which came as a counterpoint to the earlier music, with notes redolent of departure, loss and the sundering of ties. Musically this modern composition is a different universe, yet thematically a battleground nonetheless.

Solace came with Mendelssohn’s wonderfully vibrant Violin Concerto, third movement, with string orchestra accompaniment.

Nescio Ensemble’s twelve talented young players perform all around Europe for free, asking only a venue and accommodation. Certainly they lifted this audience out of Brexit blues and Election ennui, and Scotland can only hope that future outcomes will not prevent their visits in coming years.

Here is an excerpt from the third movement of Bartok's Divertimento for Strings.

PS Meanwhile, how about a Turkish tour for Nescio? Enquiries to nescioensemble@gmail.com.

Main image by Sanne Gault

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