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Two Belgravia concerts and two Fazioli pianos

Three recitals this week have reinforced awareness of the subjectivity of attempts to review musical events and highlighted the important part played by venues and listening positions.

R. Schumann Quartet No 3 Op 41
G. Enescu Quartet No 2 Op 22
L. van Beethoven Quartet Op 132

ConTempo Quartet
Romanian Cultural Institute London 1st April 2010

Many of our most memorable musical experiences have been not in regular concert halls. There is a club atmosphere at the always well attended Romanian Cultural Institute concerts. The elegantly refurbished Enescu Room, with two limbs at right angles and the players at its apex, brings everyone close to the musicians.

The ConTempos gave their all in intense accounts of the items in a demanding programme, very much "in your face" music making. The Enescu 2nd quartet, unknown to most of us there, was revelatory, immensely inventive throughout, a great discovery; hear how each movement begins. And their Beethoven 127 was as involving and satisfying an account of late Beethoven as I've ever experienced; not as refined as, say, the Wihans who have every inflection worked out and secure enough to go straight onto CD; surely closer to how early performances must have felt, sometimes in private houses? And there were drinks downstairs, in a gallery adorned with Serban Mestecaneanu's excellent photo exhibition of musicians staying and working in a small Romanian village on the Danube.


Mozart: String Quartet No.1 in G, KV 80
Fauré: Piano Quintet No.1 in D, Op.89
Dvorák: Piano Quintet No.2 in A Op.81

Panocha Quartet & Roy Howat, piano

St Peter's, Eaton Square 8 April 2010

The venerable Panocha Quartet with Roy Howat opted to play Fauré & Dvorak piano quintets at St Peter's Church, Eaton Square, totally rebuilt after destruction by an arsonist.

This promised an exceptional experience, but it was vitiated by impossible acoustics in the "clean, bright modern interior" of the gleaming interior. I tried listening in three different positions, none of them satisfactory. At the first, Fauré's piano writing became a blur; at the near front, the piano was far too dominant and the Fazioli's tone harsh and aggressive in Dvorak; retreating a little further one noted little sense of rapport or flexibility between Howat and the Czech specialists. In fairness, I feel bound to add that a respected fellow critic found the Dvorak "seraphic" from near the back of the church... It was worth having heard the Panochas silken tone in a little early Mozart divertimento KV 80; were they using gut strings?

See Fauré Quintet No 2 at Wilton's

Schumann Drei Stücklein and Albumblätter from Bunte Blätter Op. 99
Brahms Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann Op. 9
Scherzo in E flat minor Op. 4
Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor Op. 5

Angela Hewitt piano

Wigmore Hall 7 April 2010

The previous night we had greatly enjoyed hearing another Fazioli grand, played with utmost sensitivity by Angela Hewitt at Wigmore Hall. The instrument contributed substantially to the pleasures of her late Schumann and early Brahms recital, which culminated with a consummate interpretation of the great F minor Sonata composed when Brahms was but 20.

Hewitt, no longer the single-minded Bach specialist of yore, achieved relaxation which enabled her to sustain power when required, with subtle voicing within chords and her tone always matched to the acoustics of the Hall.

This account of one of the more challenging major pieces in the repertoire was as fine as any remembered. The well conceived programme has the makings of a future CD to be keenly awaited.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See The Guardian - - "Truly a woman who can play Brahms, too."

and The Times - - Hewitt, keeping a formidable intellectual and physical grip on the sonata’s form and direction, set up a thrilling ebb and flow of expressive power.