The Purcell School Chamber Music Concert (Mozart, Hindemith, Fauré, Tippett, Mendelssohn, Ravel) Wigmore Hall, London. 6 March 2000
A very practical programme, featuring seven ensembles in one or two movements of longer works, with two short works played complete, providing both variety and maximum exposure of talent. Although the youth and relative inexperience of the players meant that performances erred on the side of correctness, overall technical and musical standards were high, and the concert very enjoyable.
In the Adagioof Mozart's Flute Quartet K285, the flute soloist lacked a degree of sparkle and was a bit loath to let herself go. But in the spirited Rondo the violin made up for this with beautifully singing, rhythmic playing. Ensemble in both movements was good. The Hindemith Sonata featured a 'boy band' of 4 horn players who (despite the odd split high note and a rather long, shuffling pause between movements) gave a very creditable reading of this charming but unassuming piece, which suited the music's Gebrauchmusik character. A movement from Fauré's Piano Quartet in C minor was played by a very dedicated quartet, which captured the lyricism of the piece very well, achieving a real sense of ebb and flow and exciting climaxes, though sometimes lacking the sustained intensity required. Barber's light-hearted, short piece for wind quintet, Summer Music, provided a complete contrast. The players' enjoyment of the music was evident. Flourishes were effortless and well characterised, and ensemble tight. The frenetic finale of the Ravel Quartet received a very concentrated performance, with well-projected 1st violin and viola in particular, but overall it could have been wilder.
The star performance of the evening was the Andante from Tippett's String Quartet No 2, a long fugue of chromatic intensity, reminiscent of Beethoven's C sharp minor quartet. The group played with breathtaking precision of intonation and ensemble throughout. I wasn't surprised to read that the 1st violinist, So-Ock Kim, had already won the Shell/LSO Gold Medal in 1998.
An impressive and inspiring showcase for the Purcell School, one of Britain's most prestigious specialist music schools. Nearly all the players might easily have been young professionals. I had no sense that I would have enjoyed the concert better with more experienced players; the freshness of these performances was ample compensation for the 'greenness' in interpretation of some.
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