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Haydn, Janácek, Musgrave and Brahms

Haydn String Quartet in D Op. 20 No. 4
Janácek Mládi
Thea Musgrave Towards the Blue (world première - commissioned by Wigmore Hall)
Brahms Clarinet Quintet in B minor Op. 115

The Endellion String Quartet
London Winds/Michael Collins, clarinet

Wigmore Hall 27 January 2011

A busy evening; this concert preceded by a Mozart fortepiano recital (on his actual 254th birthday) by Mikhail Shilyaev, round the corner at MacLaren Hall, Mandeville Place; and afterwards, the SIMON WOOLF QUINTET at the Spice of Life, Soho...

The first half of the Wigmore Hall concert was brilliant. The long established Endillion Quartet began with a smooth and refined account of a special Haydn quartet, our appreciation enhanced by a very detailed analysis in the programme by Misha Donat. The rest of the programme was by elderly composers, young in heart each one of them. One can never tire of Janácek's Mládi (1924), a miraculous celebration of youth by a 70 year old, and one of the enduring masterpieces of the wind ensemble repertoire. It always succeeds in performance and this one by distinguished London based wind players was exceptional in its pointed lucidity, not one of Janacek's piquant turns of phrase failing to make its effect.

The (now rare in UK) premiere of a major work by Thea Musgrave (b 1928), long resident in America, was a welcome addition to her specialty, dramatic works for instrumental groups.

This one features the clarinettist, off-stage at first, who brings the music from an uncomfortable, desolate and argumentative beginning to a "blue sky" conclusion, entering with a flurry and on the way having duologues with the other players individually. On a larger platform, with more room for movement, those could have been made more clear. The Novello score provided helped to make the work even more lucid, and I was glad to see it was being recorded.

The autumnal Brahms quintet (1891) is one of his last works and was given an infinitely soothing performance which delighted the packed audience but did have me wondering how it might sound on an instrument of the period such as played by Muhlfeld [R]?

Had Collins been affected by working at the super-senitive refinements of his newly released and highly recommendable CD The Lyrical Clarinet [Chandos CHAN10637] ?

Peter Grahame Woolf



Thea Musgrave Photo: Christian Steiner