The Haydn Op 20 quartets are also known as the Sun quartets, as if they were the dawn of an entirely new genre of music making. Truth be told they weren’t entirely new but they did show off, for the first time, the sophistication of the string quartet form.
This set comprises 6 quartets and No. 4 is undoubtedly the most popular. It is a happy spritely quartet and needs to be played with speed and elegance. This came over well in the outer movements, although there were times when I wanted to push the tempo along. The slow movement is a series on variations which have some brooding elements. These need absolute harmonic clarity. The occasional fudged intonation meant that some of the underlying menace was lost, but the lighter variations came over very well.
The string sextet delivers a special sound to the listener. It is quite different to that of a quartet with a softer, more plangent delivery. It also means that audiences talk over it. I was not close to the players but the little I heard of the Teleman was very pleasing.
The Mozart “Grande Sestetto Concertante” took me by surprise, even though it was written into the programme. Here the medium of the string sextet really came into its own. This very familiar piece (as a violin/viola concerto) took on an entirely new life. It worked exceptionally well in the context of the background murmur of the audience. Next time I’ll get closer.
The oboe quartets seemed to take me back to a previous life. The Mozart oboe quartet was one of the very first long playing records my father bought in the 1960s. It was a delight to be reminded of those days. Even the Stamitz and Vanhal quartets were those that I had known and played (as a violinist) over two decades ago. These performances were well worth the wait.
In the Chapel end of Pennoyers, we heard Mozart’s “Kegelstatt” trio for the unusual combination of piano, clarinet and viola. Typically Mozartian, it is quite unique in the repertoire. The opening Andante is indeed beautiful, but mainly a vehicle for the clarinet to show off. Mike Bishop accomplished this admirably. I’m used to the minuet movement being light hearted, frothy and not too difficult. Not so here. The viola’s triplets are fiendish. Sandra handled these with real dexterity, but at the cost of a tiny reduction in tempo. The final rondo brought us back to normality. The players relaxed and let their hair down (metaphorically speaking of course).
The Schumann Fantasiestücke for clarinet and piano (Op. 73) was a complete surprise. The music was entirely new to me. It certainly gave Richard Donmall the chance to demonstrate the flexibility of his electronic piano. Both he and it were very good indeed and was Mike on clarinet. This is a piece of music I will certainly be acquiring in the near future.
For those interested, the full programme is listed below
While this has nothing specifically to do with a stroke, keeping oneself active and motivated is still part of the recovery process.