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Bliss, Haydn & Brahms Piano Quintet
Opening of Conway Hall Sunday Concerts Season

Simon Callaghan & The Barbirolli Quartet

South Place, Holborn 6.30 pm 2 October 2011

Sunday concerts have been held at South Place since 1878; their fully illustrated history is available in Frank Hawkins' book.

Since 2008 they have continued under their new Artistic Director, Simon Callaghan, who joined the Barbirolli Quartet to open the 2011-2002 Season.

We have followed this leading British string quartet since their early days. The Haydn Op 33/1 was exceptionally fine in this venerable venue, whose acoustics are as good as any in the Capital and better than most. Bliss's 2nd quartet was new to us and exciting to hear, if perhaps a little overlong in the working out of some of its movements.

The Brahms piano quintet has been for me a key work ever since the days of the Busch Quartet, which I heard live. Their recording of it with Rudolf Serkin (1938) has been a "standard" reference since those early days and is only rarely surpassed - sample it on YouTube.

Callaghan had the measure of the difficult balancing in this, Brahms' final version of a work which began as a string quintet and reached its final form with some difficulty. Theirs was the most satisfying of many live performances I have heard, some of them reviewed on MP.

An ideal start to the season (which has a rival similar attraction at Kings Place); the only problem was overheard from a man in his sixties - "it's an old people's club - - -". Serious efforts should be made to attract younger people for this early evening fixture - the early starting time would allow them to go on to entertainments more to their liking, if only they could be persuaded to give "chamber music" a try...

The quality of this series has been maintained under present management, and is good for another hundred years.

Peter Grahame Woolf