MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews

 Clicking Google advertisements helps keep MusicWeb subscription-free.


Other Links

Editorial Board

  • Editor - Bill Kenny
  • Deputy Editor - Bob Briggs
  • Founder - Len Mullenger

Google Site Search


Internet MusicWeb



Proms Chamber Music 17 - Britten and Schubert: Christian Poltéra (cello), Szymanowski Quartet (Andrzej Bielow, Grzegorz Kotow (violins), Vladimir Mykytka (viola), Marcin Sieniawski (cello)), Claudio Bohórquez (cello), Cadogan Hall, London, 31.8.2009 (BBr)


Britten: Cello Suite No.3, op.87 (1971)
Schubert: String Quintet in C, D956 (?1828)

Britten’s 3rdCello Suite was the last of five (or six, if you count the cadenzas he wrote for Haydn’s C major Concerto) works created specially for Mstislav Rostropovich. In nine short, linked, movements the work incorporates four Russian themes, three arrangements of folksongs by Tchaikovsky and the Kontakion, the Russian Orthodox Hymn for the Dead. This is a very passionate work, with a rich vein of lyricism. It is also a very difficult work to bring off for there is little movement within the piece – most of the movements are slow, or in a slowish tempo – and even the moto perpetuo, marked Presto, can easily be missed. I did, for I was so deeply involved with the splendid performance and the religious aspect of the music. There was a rapt intensity to Poltéra’s performance, and he gave the impression, even though we could see him reading the score as he played, that he was freely improvising as he went along. Such is the dream–like impression the music gives that this is quite believable.

The String Quintet in C is Schubert’s last, great, essay in chamber music, and it stands as a towering masterpiece in the catalogue of music for strings. When they started, I felt that the Szymanowski Quartet, with their guest, Claudio Bohórquez had totally missed the point, so restrained was their interpretation. But as the performance proceeded it grew in stature and it was obvious that they had a symphonic view of the music, allowing it to grow from an understated opening to the final race to the conclusion. In between there was much to enjoy and admire. Most impressive was the slow movement where 2nd violin, viola and 1st cello seemed, somehow, to fade into the background and allow 1st violin and 2nd cello centre stage as they carried on their dialogue of pizzicato and bowed murmurings; this was a magical moment indeed, and summed up the intimacy of their performance. The scherzo was all fire and bluster, with a fine withdrawn trio, and the country dance of the finale ambled along until the tempo quickened for the final rush to the end. A truly inspired performance.

Bob Briggs

For further details about forthcoming performances by 2009 BBC Proms the website


Back to Top                                                 Cumulative Index Page