Chamber Studio and Conway Hall Sunday Concert
Chamber Studio masterclasses with Simon Rowland-Jones
Albany Piano Trio
Haydn String Quartet in C Hoboken III : 39
This was an exceptionally rewarding afternoon for participants and the (few) listeners to Simon Rowland-Jones' teaching at Kings Place. Founder violist of the Chilingirian Quartet, in which he played for a total of ten years, he has published a new Peters Edition Haydn Quartets "Urtext", though he said in truth that is something that really doesn't exist !
The sound was rather overwhelming at first with the Steinway in full flood, but you get used to it. See more on the Albany Piano Trio's website; they are unusual - possibly unique? - as having teamed up from the three leading London conservatoires, Royal Academy, Royal College and the GuildhallSMD.
The studio provided ideal intimacy for string quartets. The Palominos, quite new to me, seemed very accomplished until their playing was subjected to detailed analysis... The topics addressed, especially in the Haydn quartet, were minutiae of which most ordinary listeners would be unaware, and adopting some of Simon's suggestions presented real difficulties for the quartet.
Always considerate, and far from dogmatic, S R-J indicated that he could not expect some of his technical suggestions to become natural immediately; viz. hand position for holding the bow (fingers too far apart), 'dropping' the very centre of the bow onto the strings for an accompanying figure; precise articulation of turns in first violinist's melodies. They were for thinking about and practising afterwards. Precise meanings of tempi markings came in for critical examination. The quartet pupils were at times a little flummoxed, but all of them receptive to the expert advice, which will have left them with a great deal to digest.
S R-J demonstrated the subtle wit and extreme concentration of thought to be found in almost every bar of this great quartet, and made abundantly clear why Haydn's oeuvre is and will always remain a cornerstone of the repertoire. One wondered (but didn't dare to ask !) which of the numerous Haydn Quartets recordings was closest to his ideal?
The Navarra Quartet at Conway Hall
Afterwards, I went straight on to Conway Hall for part of the Navarra Quartet's Sunday Concert, curated by Simon Callaghan.
I found the Navarras a little too forceful in Haydn's Op 76/1 - all the bows up in the air for final flourishes etc - but Schubert's Rosamonde quartet (substituted after a spell of illness within the quartet) was deeply satisfying.
I have become (belatedly) quite an addict for the concentrated and leisurely learning experiences provided gratis for interested members of the public in ChamberStudio - one and a half hour sessions for each group, which is hugely appreciated by participating ensembles. These Sunday Afternoons deserve to be patronised by more of London's chamber music enthusiasts.
Peter Grahame Woolf