The question posed by the Leader of Royal Northern Sinfonia at Saturday’s concert remains unanswered: was this the first time Mahler’s First Symphony had been performed live in Richmond? Had it not been for Iain Farrington’s brilliant arrangement for fifteen musicians, it certainly wouldn’t have happened at RSC’s second concert of the season. This huge orchestral work normally calls for a hundred musicians, but there isn’t a venue in Richmond that could accommodate such a vast number (and the RSC, sadly, probably couldn’t afford to stage it).
What we heard was different in tone, texture and volume from the full orchestral version but wow, did it sound good! Every instrumentalist was a soloist and they each gave it their all, which allowed the clarity of the musical line to shine out. Should anyone ever question the excitement and exhilaration of being at a live performance, this would have put paid to their doubts. The audience gave it their rapt attention and was spell-bound throughout the concert.
In the first half, we enjoyed Richard Strauss’s String Sextet from Capriccio and Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, written for his wife as a birthday present and performed for her as she awoke on Christmas morning. A bit different from the way most parents are woken on Christmas morning but Cosima’s life certainly wasn’t typical.
This was a stunning second concert in the RSC series, rivalling the triumph of the Doric Quartet in the first performance of the season. Can the third one match up to the high standard that has been set? Make sure you’re there to find out, on 23 November.
(Many thanks to our member, Elizabeth Bedford, for the above review.)
After the concert, a leaving collection was held for the Swaledale and Wensleydale Flood Recovery Fund. This raised an excellent total of £602. Many thanks to all donors for your generosity, which will support a very good cause indeed.
Royal Northern Sinfonia in Richmond, 19 October 2019. Photo by Jane Morris-Abson
It was a pleasure to welcome the Dorics back to Richmond. A six year gap emphasised just how the group has developed into the major quartet it is now, and the musicians had the large audience mesmerised. As several listeners commented afterwards, Haydn is often used to provide an 'unchallenging' introduction to a chamber concert - but with their strong, dynamic rendering of his Op. 33 No. 1, the Dorics made it clear from the outset that this was no mere warm-up act.
Britten's String Quartet No. 1 stood in strong contrast, with violist Hélène Clément performing on the composer's own instrument. The group's playing was admirable, and although the work as a whole doesn't really cohere, the movements were individually brilliant and explored a broad palette of moods.
A remarkable evening ended with Schubert's great Death and the Maiden quartet. The audience was rapt, the applause rapturous - and the number of people queuing afterwards to upgrade their single tickets to Season Tickets bodes well for this new season.
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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