Last night, one of our favourite quartets won the Royal Philharmonic Society's prestigious Chamber Music Award. We're particularly glad for the Carduccis because they're not just great musicians, they're also a lovely bunch of people.
The award made particular mention of the ensemble's superb Shostakovich performances. You can hear the Carducci Quartet playing Shostakovich's Quartet No. 11 in our new season of Richmondshire Concerts. And before then, if you move quickly, you can hear the awards ceremony, introduced by Andrew McGregor, on Radio 3 at 7:30 tonight, and then on Listen Again.
The Villiers Quartet rounded off our 2015-16 season in style.
Sibelius's densely woven Voces Intimae quartet was unknown to most of the audience - as a show of hands established - but is a firm favourite of the Villiers, and one could see why. It was very different from the composer's more familiar symphonies and tone-poems. There followed a darkly lyrical single-movement work by the contemporary Spanish composer Granero, Noche del Amor Insomne. Beethoven's second Razumovsky quartet came after the interval, its long, soul-searching second movement taken at a confidently slow pace. The warm applause brought the artists back for a fizzy little encore, the Waltz from Britten's Three Divertimenti, written when he was just 23 years old.
And so, the musicians set off to drive back home to the Midlands, while we lucky listeners went home through the surprisingly chilly night, to reflect on a very good season.
The Albany Piano Trio treated us to a delightfully varied and well chosen menu last night. They opened with Haydn - always good for reassuring an audience that it is in safe hands - and then brought on the surprise dish of the evening, Rebecca Clarke's Piano Trio of 1922. The Albanys are persuasive advocates for this seldom heard piece, which became the talk of the interval, the beautiful central movement having made a particular impression.
Bloch's atmospheric Three Nocturnes refreshed palates before Smetana's grand and volatile Piano Trio Op. 15, which deserves to find its way onto a few wish-lists. The evening ended with a lively encore described as a "combination of cakewalk and klezmer madness". (But who was the composer?)
The Albany Trio performed with maturity, skill and infectious enthusiasm. It was a shame they had no CDs with them, but anyone wanting to hear the Rebecca Clarke again can catch the Trio performing it next Tuesday (8 March) on Radio 3 at 13:00, and presumably on iPlayer afterward.
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