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22nd February 2018: Arcadia Quartet
Review by Peter Andrews.

Outstanding string quartet brings a varied and exciting programme to Chichester.   READ MORE

The visiting artistes at the Chichester Chamber Concert on Thursday 22nd February were the Arcadia String Quartet. This prize-winning Romanian ensemble is rapidly establishing itself as one of the most exciting string quartets of their generation and are much sought after on the world stage. They last visited Chichester in 2013 shortly after winning the Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition and their return visit was eagerly anticipated. The anticipation was not misplaced.

They opened their concert with the String Quartet in E Op. 33 no 2 by Haydn. It was a performance of lightness and delicacy admirably led by first violin Ana Török. The Arcadia’s command of the music was evident from the first bar through to the delightful finish. The quartet, one of the so-called Russian quartets written in 1781, acquired the nickname The Joke because of its false ending, leading the audience to believe the quartet has finished before it actually has. Pre-warned by the programme notes, the Chichester audience did not fall for the deception.

The second, and more substantial, item on the Arcadia’s programme was the second String Quartet in D major by Alexander Borodin. This gorgeously romantic work is an expression of serene happiness and the sheer joy of being alive. Borodin’s biographer, Sergey Dianin, has suggested that the whole quartet is based on the happiness of Borodin’s marriage to his wife Ekatrina and is, in effect, an extended love letter. It received an affectionate and compelling performance. It opens with a cello statement, played rather briskly by cellist Zsolt Török, and taken up by the first violin. The second subject, played with great delicacy by Ana Török over a pizzicato accompaniment, was a delight. The best known movement, the heart-stoppingly exquisite Notturno, was beautifully crafted. It begins with an Andante introduced by the cello over syncopated chords on the second violin and viola answered by the first violin in a high register. Ana Török’s floated violin entry was sublime. The second subject, marked appassionato e risoluto, entrusted to the second violin of Rasvan Dumitru, was also beautifully played. The final movement, after the opening few Andante bars, was set off at a brisk pace by viola player Traian Boala and was suitably energetic and dramatic.

After an interval, the Arcadia Quartet returned to play something altogether more gritty and problematic, the 8th Quartet of Dmitri Shostakovich in C minor Op.110. The quartet was written in the space of three days in 1960 in Dresden where the composer had gone for treatment for polio. The city still lay in ruins from the bombing raids of February 1945 and Shostakovich dedicated the quartet to victims of fascism and war, including victims of brutality in his own country. According to his daughter Galina, Shostakovich saw himself as being a victim and the quartet contains frequent eruptions of the composers own initials as well as quotations from earlier works - Symphonies 1 and 5, the Jewish theme from the Piano Trio No 2, the first cello concerto and an aria from the third act of the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk where Katerina sings about woman’s great sense of sacrifice. The quartet, which also includes a Russian hymn Tormented by Grievous Bondage, was given an intensely moving interpretation by the Arcadia with dramatic dynamic contrasts portraying both bitterness and anger.

This was a most rewarding evening of music making from a closely co-ordinated, finely tuned ensemble who brought to Chichester a varied, entertaining and challenging programme of great interest.


6th December 2017: Daniel Lebhardt
Review by Chris Darwin.

From the opening chord of Beethoven's 'Tempest' Sonata, it was clear we were in the hands of a magician. When Anton Schindler asked Beethoven for guidance in playing this sonata, the alleged answer was "read Shakespeare's Tempest". Whether you take this riposte seriously or not, the young Hungarian pianist Daniel Lebhardt transported us Prospero-like to a magic "isle full of noises, sounds, and sweet airs that give delight".   READ MORE

His calm concentration focussed our attention on the music: its fierce contrasts of tempestuous outbursts stilled by those magic chords, and the curiously inward-looking recitative holding our thoughts before plunging into the recapitulation. It was all masterfully done. The critic Donald Tovey allows us to think of Miranda during the gorgeous melody a third of the way into the slow movement, and surely hearing and seeing Daniel Lebhardt playing she would have delighted in this 'brave new world that hath such creatures in it'.

But all this magic was just the curtain-raiser for the next item which for me was the star of the show: Bartók's Piano Sonata. What energy, what wild rhythms! Lebhardt played as if possessed – completely winning over any of the audience who might have been timid about Bartók by his sheer love of this wonderful Hungarian music. The final devilish dance whirled faster and faster to the end and our enthusiastic cheers. I could not imagine a better performance.

After the interval we had two more very contrasting pieces. The first was Mozart's profound and unsettling A minor Rondo, sometimes almost Chopin, sometimes reflecting Mozart's renewed interest in Bach. Here I felt Lebhardt was less convincing, the performance was unsentimentally workmanlike but did not, for me, probe the depths. Perhaps this was because Lebhardt was mentally preparing himself for the exhausting outpourings of his final work – Rachmaninov's Second Sonata. Rachmaninov is rich fare and Lebhardt played this passionate and complex music with extraordinary technical prowess and a powerfully concentrated conviction. Daniel Lebhardt is an extraordinarily talented pianist. Well done Chichester for giving him a platform; watch out for him in the future.


9th November 2017: Trio Con Brio Copenhagen
Review by Peter Andrews.

The Chichester Chamber Concert presentation on Thursday 9h November was held in the Chapel of the Ascension at Chichester University and featured the Trio Con Brio Copenhagen. The trio is composed of two sisters, Soo-Jin Hong (violin) and Soo-Kyung (cello) and Soo-Kyung’s husband Jens Elvekjaer (piano). The close relationship of the players was reflected in their playing with keen attention to detail and precise ensemble throughout. Eye contact between the two sisters was constant.   READ MORE

The trio chose to open their programme with a trio written especially for them by the Swedish composer Sven-David Sandström. Sandström, born in 1942, is a prolific composer of opera, oratorio, choral and orchestral works as well as chamber music. His Four Pieces for Piano Trio were written in 2012. Partly melodic, partly percussive, partly astringent the trio never settles down and there is little sense of development. The Con Brio trio were clearly familiar with the piece and gave it a strong committed performance.

The Piano Trio in D major Op. 70 no.1 by Beethoven, nicknamed The Ghost, followed. The name The Ghost was allegedly given to it by Beethoven’s most famous pupil, Carl Czerny, who claimed the second movement reminded him of Hamlet’s ghost. In fact Beethoven was at the time of composition discussing the possibility of writing an opera of Macbeth. The piece begins with a relatively short fast paced opening movement. The second movement begins eerily with three notes sustained in the strings after which the piano responds mournfully. It ends in gripping pauses and abrupt and intermittent stops and outbursts, requiring immaculate timing. The final movement, also relatively short, is more direct in style and serves as a warm relief. This was a thoroughly gripping performance by the Con Brio Trio with intense concentration and precision, although with occasional lapses in balances when the piano and cello swamped the violin.

The real tour de force however came after the interval with an exhilarating performance of Tchaikovsky’s mighty Trio in A minor Op 50 “In memory of a great artist”. Written in 1882, the trio is dedicated to the pianist Nikolai Rubenstein, brother of Anton Rubenstein under whom Tchaikovsky studied composition at the St Petersburg Conservatory. Unusual in structure, the trio consists of a lengthy first movement in sonata form followed by a theme and eleven variations and a coda. The piano part in particular is exceptionally demanding and does not let up for the work’s whole length of fifty minutes. Jens Elvekjaer produced a stunning virtuoso performance. This was altogether a dramatic, powerful rendition, made even more immediate by the close proximity of the players with their audience in the main body of the chapel. The variations were delightful, especially variation VIII (Fuga; Allegro moderato) and the full force of emotion skilfully held back until being released to magnificent effect in the Coda. This was a performance to savour by a group of thoughtful and dedicated players of outstanding talent.


5th October 2017: Akilone Quartet
Review by Raymond Greenlees.

This young French quartet opened their concert with an immaculate performance of Beethoven’s early quartet Opus 18 No. 6. This is a difficult work which poses problems of syncopation and balance, but begins with a jocular first movement of answering phrases, and they caught the atmosphere successfully, as well as negotiating the complex rhythmic patterns of the later Scherzo.   READ MORE

The next work in the programme was the even more difficult Op.5 and Op.9 of Webern, a pupil of Schoenberg who, like his teacher, shunned the tonal world of music after making his debut with rich harmonies in the style of Wagner. The Akilone gave an impressive performance which was quite spell-binding in its intensity and helped the audience to make sense of this complex work.

The final work in the programme was Schumann’s Opus 41 No.1. After a somewhat acerbic opening, the players relaxed into the romantic passages with the required warmth of tone. The leader seemed to have more difficulty than the others in achieving this but her brilliant technique won the day.

I had the privilege of hearing this talented quartet two days later in the completely different acoustic of St Christopher’s Church in Haslemere. They repeated their brilliant account of the Webern pieces and in both concerts, they deserved the warm reception of the capacity audiences.


16th March 2017: Kungsbacka Piano Trio
Review by Peter Andrews.

When an ensemble as renowned and applauded as the Kungsbacka Piano Trio arrives in town it is reasonable to anticipate an evening of high quality and enjoyable music–making. This was certainly the experience of the audience at the Chichester Chamber Concerts recital in the Assembly Room last Thursday evening. Moreover, the Trio came with an enthralling programme which admirably suited their considerable talents. Each half of the programme contained one of the major works of the piano trio repertoire preceded by a shorter work of much greater rarity.   READ MORE

The lesser-–known work that opened the concert was Lili Boulanger’s D’un soir triste dating from 1918. Lili was the younger sister of the much more famous Nadia Boulanger, but it was Lili who in 1913 won the Paris Conservatoire’s coveted Prix de Rome, rather than her sister; the first woman to do so in the 115 year history of the competition. (The girls’ father, Ernest, had won the prize in 1835.) Sadly, Lili was crippled with Crone’s Disease. D’un soir triste was the last work she was able to complete in her own hand. As it progressed, the handwriting on the manuscript grew weaker and weaker. One final work, a Pie Jesu, was dictated to Nadia before Lili died on 15 March 1918, at just 24 years of age. D’un soir triste, lasting some 12 minutes, begins with percussive chords from the piano over which the cello eventually plays a soulful melody before the violin enters and takes up the tune. The music rises to a crescendo with some anguished chords on the piano before dying away to a peaceful conclusion. By the time she wrote this Lili knew that she had not long to live, but the music is of resignation rather than tragedy, in some parts uplifting, and it received a most sympathetic and moving performance from the Kungsbacka Trio.

This was followed by Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor, one of the gems of piano trio literature. Finished in a hurry at the outbreak of World War l so that Ravel could rush off to enlist (although he was rejected from military service on account of his physical frailty) the trio is a work of enormous strength, technically demanding of the players who, in this instance, gave it a passionate and thoroughly convincing performance. Almost orchestral in nature, the Ravel piano trio – the only one he wrote – is one of the genuine twentieth century masterpieces for this combination of instruments.

The second half of the programme opened with the second rarity – Arvo Pӓrt’s Mozart–Adagio. This short work was written in 1992 in memory of Oleg Kagan, a friend of Arvo Pӓrt, and a prominent Russian violinist, who was a well–known interpreter of Mozart’s music. The composer takes the Adagio from Mozart’s Piano Sonata in F major K280 and uses the strings to probe the dissonances and shadows of Mozart’s work. The string writing is spare. Each note is exposed and often, as in the introduction and coda, framed in silence – the silences as eloquent as the played notes. The result is a hauntingly beautiful piece which was most movingly presented in this performance.

The final work in the programme was Schubert’s sublime Piano Trio No.1 in B flat D898. Written in the summer or early autumn of 1827 it is a work of ravishing beauty. It was followed in November by the Trio No.2 in E flat. Robert Schumann wrote: "One glance at them [the two Piano Trios] and the troubles of our human existence disappear and all the world is fresh and bright again". Yet these trios were written at a time when Schubert was experiencing rapidly failing health and erratic mood swings. He died the following year. The composer only heard the Piano Trio No.1 once, in a private subscription concert, and never in public and it was not until 8 years after his death that the Trio was finally published. Produced in a final flurry of composition which included Winterreise, the "Great" C minor symphony and the String Quintet amongst other major pieces, the Trio is a radiant and life–affirming piece. The Kungsbacka Trio gave us a performance of great subtlety, freshness and eloquence.

This was a superb programme played with great skill and panache but also evident enjoyment which was shared by the enthusiastic capacity audience. It was a fitting end to the Chichester Chamber Concerts season.


16th February 2017: SPIRITATO! Sound the Trumpet!
Review by David Tinsley.

What a treat to have an octet at CCC with two trumpets in full flow, evoking the atmosphere of the seventeenth century court. Spiritato! certainly lived up to their name and gave the responsive audience much to enjoy.   READ MORE

Purcell was the ideal choice as a start to this exciting evening. Trumpeters Will Russell and Russell Gilmore were the epitome of accuracy and clarity on their baroque instruments, providing a crisp and strong background to the whole evening. Violinist Kinga Ujszászi led every element of the programme with confidence and drive with the rest of the ensemble proving to be on top of their game and working well as a team.

We were told how the baroque trumpet had evolved from the earliest hunting horns with the facility to play tunes and not just fanfares. For my taste, however, I prefer modern stringed instruments to the gut strung early replicas but Spiritato! won me over with their expertise and togetherness, ably supported by a rich bassoon and a virtuoso harpsichordist. Of particular note in the Purcell Sonata in A minor was the confident support from a fine cellist.

The versatility of the Spiritato! was shown in full in the Corbett Suite in D from the second half of the seventeenth century. Here the dance movements were played with verve and enjoyment which clearly entranced the audience with the trumpets lifting the march theme to new heights. We then heard the French composer Rebel’s Les Caractères de la dance which we were told was like a dancer’s CV. The last sequence before the interval showed the leader in full control of her instrument, driving the sextet to a dramatic conclusion and the interval.

Trumpets introduced the second half from the back of the hall with a Sonata by Fantini before we were back to the strings for Legrenzi’s Sonata in D. This piece showed that the players were in full control of their period instruments and demonstrated their command of the baroque genre.

The next Sonata by Albreci required a re–tuning of the trumpets and gave full rein to the ensemble whose obvious enjoyment was transmitted to the audience and took us back to the atmosphere of court musicians. The two violins, cello and harpsichord then played Extracts from Ayres for the violin by Matteis, showing again the technical abililty of leader Kinga whose solo was a delight.

For the finale, Spiritato! pulled out all the stops and played the Franceschini Suonata a 7 con due Trombe with verve and vitality, a style which will continue to delight audiences wherever they go. Bravo Spiritato!


26th January 2017: SIGNUM QUARTET
Review by Raymond Greenlees.

The Signum Quartet played works by Haydn, Bruno Mantovani and Beethoven.   READ MORE

The Haydn Quartet Op.20 No.2 and Mantovani’s 3rd Quartet [commissioned by the Signum] were paired in the first half of the concert, and although they were composed 250 years apart, they are both experimental and push the boundaries of classical music. Haydn’s Op. 20 six quartets were ahead of their time. To begin with, the cello was given an independent and prominent role for the first time in the history of quartet writing. Secondly, the standard format of movements is transformed; the second movement becomes an operatic aria for the first violin preceded by a recitative played in unison by the rest of the ensemble; and the last movement becomes a "whisper" fugue [marked sotto voce] to tease Prince Nicholas Esterhazy who specifically asked for one and was probably expecting something more full-blown!

The experimental nature of the Mantovani quartet is explained in a programme note by the composer where he describes the instruments obsessively exploring different densities of sounds and the superimposing of one rhythm on top of another. In addition, tonality is scrapped and in places replaced by sliding quarter-tones and striking textural devices. While not appealing to everybody’s taste, the audience on the whole indulged the composer in the manner of Prince Nicholas.

The Signum Quartet played both works superbly, drawing every nuance out of the music with great finesse and boldness, and kindly put a diverting buffer between the two works in the shape of 3 short pieces using only 140 notes each, in the manner of a message on Twitter!

The second half of the concert consisted of Beethoven’s last "Rasumovsky" Quartet Op.59 No.3 which the Signum played with remarkable clarity and care over balance and phrasing. With such imaginative and insightful playing one might expect them to explore more tone colours as for example using greater warmth in the cantabile sections of the Beethoven and even in their lovely Schubert encore which was an arrangement of the song Du bist die Ruh by their violist Xandi van Dijk.


1st December 2016: NOTOS PIANO QUARTET
Review by Raymond Greenlees.

A packed house heard the Notos Piano Quartet give a shining performance of a reconstructed Mozart fragment, an early masterpiece by Walton, and the magnificent Brahms Opus 26.   READ MORE

The players come from Germany and have trained in several cities across Europe, notably Madrid, Manchester and Frankfurt. The Alban Berg Quartet has had the strongest influence on their development and this shows in their impeccable intonation and incisive rhythm. Their sense of balance and ensemble is exemplary and this gives their phrasing and harmonic progression a clarity which reveals every detail of the composition.

Their curtain–raiser was an unfinished movement by Mozart of a triple ’concerto’ for violin, viola, cello and orchestra in which the orchestral part has been arranged for the piano. The work was completed by Philip Wilby and a cadenza added by David Paul Graham, two British composers. The result is a useful addition to the piano quartet repertoire but it lacks the genius of Mozart.

The other piece in the first half was a formidable piano quartet in D minor by an all–British composer, William Walton. Although an early work, it already shows how mature Walton had become at the age of twenty. The Notos gave it a vigorous and energetic rendition, making light of the difficult rhythms and high passage work in the strings. We heard a tender slow movement, and some majestic counterpoint, but each of the four movements had its own colour.

The main work in the programme was Brahms’ Opus 26 Piano Quartet in A major. The Notos excelled in this pillar of the piano quartet repertoire. Indeed in 2013, they won the Special Prize for the Best Brahms Interpretation at the Torino competition. Such was their unanimity of phrasing that one could not tell who was leading the ensemble – and that is how it should be; each player complementing the other and none seeking the limelight.


27th October 2016: ALEXEI GRYNYUK, piano
Review by Chris Darwin.

It is every concert organiser’s nightmare: on the morning of the concert, the phone rings and the artist apologises that he is too ill to perform that evening. Aargh!! Fortunately for Anna Hill, the organiser of Chichester’s wonderful Chamber Concert series, Alexei Grynyuk, the pianist who was to have played with the indisposed cellist Leonard Elschenbroich, offered to perform a solo piano recital instead of the planned cello–piano duo programme.   READ MORE

Grynyuk was a star. With only a few hours to shift gear from being part of a duo to the very different role of solo performer, he dazzled the Chichester audience. His programme was varied – Scarlatti, Chopin and Liszt. His Liszt–playing was masterful, making light of the unbelievable technical difficulties to bring out the intense drama and lyrical beauties of the works. To quote the Gramophone’s recent review of his Liszt CD: "A programme of familiar Liszt made thrillingly unfamiliar".

Let us hope that Chichester can re–engage Elschenbroich and Grynyuk, and perhaps even negotiate a deal to complete their trio with Nicola Benedetti.


6th October 2016: VAN KUIJK QUARTET
Review by Peter Andrews.

The first concert in the 2016 ⁄ 17 Season of the Chichester Chamber Concerts took place on Thursday 6th October in the Assembly Room. It was an auspicious start. The performers were the youthful Van Kuijk Quartet and the programme included the two best–loved, and most performed, French String Quartets, those of Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy.   READ MORE

The two works are closely linked; the Ravel quartet was undoubtedly influenced by that of Debussy, written some 10 or 11 years earlier. Both reflect the then popularity of Javanese gamelan music in the West, more so in the Debussy than the Ravel. Both were highly original and accordingly widely criticised at the time of their first performances (mainly because they were insufficiently "German", that is, not in the style of Beethoven) and both attained great popularity later on. And, sadly, the two quartets – or rather the publicity surrounding them – caused a rift between the two composers, who had hitherto been friends, that never properly healed. (Following savage criticism of the Ravel quartet at the Paris Conservatory, Debussy urged the younger composer "in the name of the gods of music and in mine" not to alter a single note of it.)

The Ravel String Quartet in F major was written in 1902 when the 27–year old composer was still a student at the Paris Conservatory. (He left in a fit of pique following the criticism the work received.) It is in four movements linked by two main themes introduced at the very beginning of the work. It is one of the most spontaneous of Ravel’s works and this was reflected by the Van Kuijk Quartet. This was not a perfect performance; the opening took a few moments to settle down, the final pizzicato note of the second movement was perhaps too long delayed and the momentum was somewhat disrupted by an overlong re–tuning between the second and third movements. But none of this mattered – the Van Kuijk’s delivered a rendition of great youthful drive and freshness which got to the essence of the piece and was thrilling to hear.

The Debussy String Quartet Op.10, also in four movements, was written at a time when Debussy was discovering a new sound–world and was much influenced by the Symbolist poetry of Mallarmé, the plays of Maeterlinck, the sculptures of Rodin and the paintings of Monet. It luxuriates in original and attractive melodies and harmonies and freely moving chords of often stunning beauty. It is no coincidence that the next piece Debussy wrote was the sensually languid L’Aprés–midi d’un faune. From the opening bars the Van Kuijks seemed very much at home with this work. The third movement in particular was truly delightful, drawing from the ensemble the most compelling music of the evening. However, throughout the whole piece they demonstrated unanimity of attack, compelling and forceful pizzicato and playing of the greatest confidence.

Between these two major French works, the Van Kuijks played Six Moments Musicaux Op. 44 by Geörgy Kurtág. Written in 2005 these short pieces are not linked thematically but were written to be played together. Requiring intense concentration on the part of both players and audience these fragmentary pieces received a compelling performance from the Van Kuijks, the last three of the six (In memoriam Sebök György, Rappel des oiseaux and Les Adieux) perhaps being the most persuasive.

This was an evening of great music played with youthful vigour and deep understanding by the Van Kuijk Quartet who have just joined the BBC New Generation Artists programme. They are clearly an ensemble to keep an eye on.


Review by David Tinsley.

If anyone is any doubt that live music is far better than recorded sound, tonight’s performance by the Brodsky proved the point. The clarity and perfection of their interpretation of the Shostakovich String Quartet No. 2 in A Op. 68 was not just an ear opener for those familiar with this complex work but an ideal introduction for those new to this composer.   READ MORE

Before setting out their virtuosic stall for a piece that only Shostakovich could have conceived, the Brodsky gave a vibrant and stimulating account of the Borodin Scherzo in D dance theme which quickly evolved into a crisp conversation between four masterly musicians. Excitement built up throughout and kept the audience on edge before a calm interlude with a soft and fluent central section was prelude to a brilliant finale.

But returning to the main work before the interval, one had to admire the quartet’s skill and obvious enjoyment in producing a cacophony of controlled sound which only Shostakovitch could have conceived. As viola player, Paul Cassidy, claimed, one could hear "all the bells of Moscow ringing at once". Essentially Russian and full of angst, the piece moved through many changes of mood and colour to a calm reflection on political life in Leningrad.

A magical and ghostly, muted performance, led the third movement to spirited and complex harmonics, unfortunately interrupted by a broken string which gave space for first violin Daniel Rowland an opportunity to tell more about the context and the composer. Finally, echoes of Russia picked out on the individual instruments led us to understand better the traditions and influences which guided this complex composition.

The climax of the piece bounced sound between the players until together they achieved a rich and exuberant climax to a complex but highly enjoyable work. Then all players and audience had a well earned interval.

As a complete contrast, Schubert’s String Quartet Death and the Maiden was to many a welcome refreshment after the rigours of the first half. This very popular piece, always a delight, was played with precision and virtuosity by a deeply experienced group. The melodic themes and dramatic contrasts interplayed with imaginative and enjoyable sounds.

It is difficult with the Brodsky to single out individuals for particular praise, they are so well integrated. The programme highlighted that the scherzo had been described as "the dance of the demon fiddler" which closely resembled our lead violinist. But the rich tones and sonority of the cello held my attention and the clarity of the viola part will remain in the memory.

All in all a great performance and one which provided a notable finish to a very successful CCC Season in Chichester. Long may we hear live music in our city!


18th February 2016: BUSCH TRIO
Review by Peter Andrews.

The Chichester Chamber Concert on Thursday 18th February provided a wonderful opportunity to hear two major works for piano trio. Both the Schubert Piano Trio in E flat D929 and the Mendelssohn Piano trio No. 1 in D minor Op.49 are exuberant and powerful works and the performers in the Assembly Room were the highly accomplished London–based Busch Piano Trio.   READ MORE

The Schubert trio was written in the last year of the composer’s tragically short life when he was just 31. In the same year he produced another piano trio as well as the breath-taking String Quintet in C major, three piano sonatas and the Symphony in C major. He second piano trio, D929, is a towering masterpiece, massive in breadth and length and abounding in thematic ideas. In a powerful performance, the Busch Piano Trio included some 99 bars that Schubert cut from the last movement at the behest of the publisher Probst of Leipzig, taking the piece to a full 50 minutes in length. From the brisk opening bars the balance and cohesion of this group of players was evident. Only very occasionally, and in the very lowest registers, was Mathieu van Bellen’s violin submerged below the more powerful instruments of his colleagues Omri Epstein (piano) and Ori Epstein (cello). The glorious cello opening to the second movement was beautifully rendered by Ori Epstein with his brother Omri providing a rippling piano accompaniment. This was a spirited and dramatic performance. The last movement, whilst long, never flagged and the decision to reinstate the "missing" bars seemed to be eminently justified.

The Busch trio displayed an equally deep musical understanding in their rendition of the Mendelssohn trio. Mendelssohn rewrote his original piano part for this work at the suggestion of fellow composer Ferdinand Hiller, giving the piano a much more prominent, and virtuosic, part. Omri Epstein rose to the challenge magnificently making light of this brilliant piano part. As with the Schubert, the Mendelssohn contains a profusion of themes, many of them given to the cello to introduce. Ori Epstein’s sonorous cello was particularly eloquent in the great opening theme of the first movement and in the prominent singing melody in the finale. In between these movements, the Scherzo, surely one of the most delightful ever written, was taken at a brisk and invigorating pace.

Between these great works the Busch Trio played Ackermusik by the Dutch composer Theo Loevendi, best known as a jazz musician. A very oriental–sounding opening, led by the muted violin against a drone on the cello and spasmodic bell–like piano flourishes in the upper register, gives way to a development involving all three instruments before the piece dies away with some rather disturbing sliding passages from the strings. Lasting about 8 minutes, the piece received a committed performance from the Busch Trio.

Undoubtedly however the evening belonged to Schubert and Mendelssohn. Linking the two trios that we heard to Beethoven’s magnificent Archduke, Schumann wrote: "This [the Mendelssohn trio] is the master trio of our age, as were the B flat trio of Beethoven and the E flat trio of Schubert in their times. It is an exceeding fine composition which will gladden the hearts of our grandchildren and great grandchildren for years to come." Our hearts were gladdened by both works in these outstanding performances.


21st January 2016: ROSANNA TER–BERG and FRIENDS
Review by Raymond Greenlees.

This interesting combination of instruments performed at the City’s Assembly Room to a full house in a largely Franco–Belgian programme. Flautist Rosanna Ter–Berg , and harpist Olivia Jageurs provided the nucleus of the ensemble, with the addition of a string trio in many of the works.   READ MORE

The key work in the programme was the Sonata for Flute, Harp and Viola by Claude Debussy. The violist Kay Stephen provided a rich string sound to accompany the flute and harp, and all three players gave of their best. The accuracy and the quality of ensemble playing was impressive and it was a moving performance of this seminal work.

The other two string players Gemma Sharples [violin] and Anna Menzies [cello] made up the group into a quintet performing works by Marcel Tournier, André Jolivet and Joseph Jongen. After a shaky start with the Tournier, the group warmed up in the remarkable atonal quintet by Jolivet which included some real virtuoso playing by the flautist and harpist.

A wonderful contrast to the quintets in the first half of the programme, was provided by Mozart’s C major Flute Quartet played sensitively by the string trio with the flute. The contrast in the second half was a String Trio by Gerald Finzi ‘Prelude and Fugue in A minor’ which deserves to be better known. The concert ended with a quintet by the Belgian composer Joseph Jongen entitled ‘Concerto à Cinq’. This composition also deserves to be better known and Rosanna Ter–Berg and Olivia Jageurs are to be congratulated for creating such an interesting programme from such a limited repertoire for this type of instrumental group.


3rd December 2015: LA SERENISSIMA
Review by Raymond Greenlees.

Although the title of this excellent baroque group is normally associated with Venice, we were spared Vivaldi and instead given the fascinating story of other Italian violinist⁄composers who at one time or another had met Handel or played his music.   READ MORE

Adrian Chandler presented a well–balanced programme centred around Handel who, while living in Hamburg, had been head–hunted by the Grand Duke of Tuscany to work in Italy. It was in Rome that Handel met Corelli who was the grandfather of the violin sonata and the concerto grosso. The concert last night featured these two great composers in a collection of violin sonatas and trio sonatas performed with 2 violins, cello and harpsichord.

Serenissima played in period style but with such beauty of tone and finesse that we were transported into the glorious sound–world of the late 17th and early 18th century further illustrated by three lesser–known contemporary violinist⁄composers; Veracini, Carbonelli and Caldara. Adrian Chandler as well as telling some amusing anecdotes, played with thrilling technical skill. His performance of the Handel Violin Sonata in D with harpsichordist Robert Howarth, but without cello continuo, was noteworthy for showing the harpsichord to good effect. In the rest of the programme Gareth Deats was an exemplary continuo cellist and Camilla Scarlett played sensitively as second violin in the trio sonatas.


5th November 2015: DAVID OWEN NORRIS (piano), AMANDA PITT (soprano), LOUISE WILLIAMS (viola).
Review by David Tinsley.

From the start we knew we were in for a treat. Rarely featured as a solo instrument, Louise Williams demonstrated the full range of sounds possible from a fine instrument, beautifully played. The Rebecca Clarke Viola Sonata gave Louise every opportunity to display her virtuoso technique. A lively and melodic first movement was followed by a more complex display of the composer’s ingenuity. The final movement was a glorious outpouring of sound from two players in perfect sympathy with each other and with the composer’s wishes.   READ MORE

As a dramatic contrast, Amanda Pitt sang three songs composed by Clarke with words by WB Yeats and John Masefield. Her voice was initially over operatic but this settled down to produce well modulated interpretations of the settings, expertly supported by David Owen Norris who was the ideal accompanist. Most intriguing was Masefield’s Seal Man which was presented with both power and delicacy. Two songs for alto, viola and piano showed Brahms at his most lyrical and melodic, the three artists blending perfectly to bring full meaning to the poetry.

After the interval, Norris and Pitt played a sonata by JS Bach which fitted perfectly the modern instrumentation of viola and piano rather than the original viola da gamba and harpsichord. It was a pleasure to hear the crisp clarity of the piano underpinning the flowing viola phrasing. The andante was a particularly charming interlude which gave way to a bright and stimulating finale.

Amanda Pitt returned to present three songs composed by Clara Schumann before being joined by Louise Williams to perform Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock with both style and fluency by a well integrated team. The audience were clearly delighted by the whole work and particularly applauded the exiting finale Spring is Coming! A good message to hear on a wet November evening.


19th February 2015: KATYA APEKISHEVA Piano Recital.
Review by David Tinsley.

Katya Apekisheva has an outstanding talent which impressed and delighted the Chichester Chamber Concerts’ audience. Unnecessarily looking to the gods for inspiration when her skills were deep in her DNA, Katya demonstrated a range of musical understanding and interpretation through a wide range of pieces which culminated in a spectacular interpretation of the popular Chopin Scherzo which seemed to confirm that the gods wanted to lift her up to heaven.   READ MORE

Starting with a combination of delicate, clear phrasing and well defined themes Katya played three contrasting Scarlatti Sonatas with crisp attack and clean ornamentation, the whole being at a well controlled pace.

In complete contrast, the Janáček collection of four pieces In the Mists proved Katya’s complete command of the keyboard and her deep understanding of the Romanian cultural influences. This was an excellent introduction for those unused to the Janáček sound.

The first half of the programme ended with Carnival Scenes by Schumann which showed that our pianist loved to perform and loved the music. We heard a range of dynamics and quiet reflections before the finale brought a masterly performance to an acclaimed conclusion.

The audience eagerly awaited the return of Katya after the interval to perform four Chopin pieces. The F minor Fantasy, with its mysterious opening leading to expansive themes, was played with perfect technique and a clear understanding of the composer’s intensions.

Two Nocturnes illustrated a delicate touch which sang to us with assured charm and again showed Katya’s command of the emotions inherent in a musical form much exploited by Chopin. A larger piano would have helped here to bring out the full tonal quality of the pieces.

But the Scherzo No 2 in B Flat minor was worth the ticket price alone. This much performed and often overworked piece came alive in the hands of this diminutive artist who brought new insights and interpretations while giving a spectacular demonstration of pianistic skill. Surely the combination of the gods and DNA had been witness to this amazing event.


8th January 2015: BRENTANO QUARTET
Review by Raymond Greenlees.

This long–established string quartet based in New York gave a spell–binding performance of works by Mozart, Bartok and Schubert in Christ Church, Chichester. Their refined and immaculate playing illuminated all three works but particularly Bartok’s 3rd string quartet in which their accurate corporate intonation made sense of the composer’s daring discords.  READ MORE

In Mozart’s Hunt quartet [K 458] they painted the huntsman scene with a variety of tone–colours which included playing some themes without vibrato to give a chorale effect and in the opening passages using exaggerated trills to suggest the hunter’s horn. The quartet’s rich tone was evident in the beautiful slow movement and contrasted well with the chirpiness of the preceding Menuetto.

The quartet’s dynamism came to the fore in Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet with some startling fortissimo attacks in the opening theme and the jagged dotted rhythms of the last movement. The Brentano excelled in the theme and variations based on Schubert’s own song which gives the quartet its name. Each instrument has its own variation showing off the virtuosity of the individual players – no weak links here; but the wonder of the Brentano quartet is its sheer unanimity of sound. How fortunate we are in Chichester to be able to hear string playing of this excellence from world–class ensembles, thanks to the work of Chichester Chamber Concerts. The capacity audience seemed to enjoy the relaxed and intimate ambience of their temporary venue at Christ Church whose acoustics compare favourably with the Assembly Rooms.


Review by David Tinsley.

What an evening of contrasts!
Quartet No. 2 by Crussell is a delightful and playful piece which suits admirably this seldom heard combination of instruments. Hanna Marcinowicz was impressive as a virtuoso clarinettist, secure in all registers. The clarity and precision of her playing blended well with the expert string accompaniment and produced a lively and exciting rondo finale.   READ MORE

A highlight of the evening was a performance by the Maggini of the complex and inventive Beethoven C minor String Trio. Julian Leaper led with calm authority with the viola and cello showing great harmonic power in support, fully catching the moods and emotions of this thoughtful work. Much appreciated was the relaxed conversation between instruments in the adagio followed by dramatic fireworks through the remaining movements. It was a joy to hear such fine artists working together in such close partnership.

After the interval the full team returned to play a fascinating modern piece which tests the individual instruments to extremes. Hanna excelled with a display of technique and rich tonal effect. Rawsthorne’s clarinet quartet demands us to listen attentively to his mix of melodic lines and harmonies, punctuated by surprising thematic interruptions. Swirling sounds injected with brilliant clarinet thrills explored a full range of contrasting rhythms and interlocking themes.

What a contrast when Hannah changed to the soprano saxophone to explore items from the Gershwin and Cole Porter songbooks. The flute–like upper register and sweet sonorous lower notes are ideally suited to these well known tunes and they brought back many memories to the mature audience. But we were left disappointed by the lost opportunity to lift the spirits and create a mood. Hannah gave the impression of being held back by pedantic arrangements of these big band classics. The themes did not soar and the accompaniment lacked drive, bite and beat.


6th November 2014: SMETANA PIANO TRIO
Review by Peter Andrews.

The second of the Chichester Chamber Concerts in the 2014–15 Season was given on Thursday 6th November in the Assembly Room by the highly accomplished Smetana Piano Trio. Despite their programme consisting of three trios all in a minor key, this proved to be a joyous and most enjoyable occasion.  READ MORE

The first item on the programme was the Piano Trio in C minor Op. 2 by Josef Suk. This is a student work, written in 1889 when Suk, the son of a village organist, was just 16 or 17 and a student at the Prague Conservatory. Following revisions suggested by Suk’s composition teacher, Karel Stecker, it was performed at a student concert where it impressed the great Czech composer Anton Dvořák who was in the audience. Further revision followed, suggested by Dvořák, and the work was published in its final form in 1891. It opens with powerful descending piano chords vying with a legato melody in the strings. Initial concerns that violinist Jiři Vodička’s delicate Guadagnini instrument would be overwhelmed by the piano of Jitka Čechová and the cello of Jan Páleníček were quickly dispelled when the second subject appeared, introduced by the cello. Both the second and third movements feature dance rhythms before the work ends with an energetic march. This was a persuasive performance played with great delicacy and charm.

It was followed by a performance of the only non–Czech work on the programme – the mighty Piano Trio in A minor by Maurice Ravel – one of the truly great pieces written for this combination of instruments. Again, the piano leads the way, dictating the character of the first movement, and is followed by the stringed instruments in widely spaced octaves (a Ravel trademark). This is sublime music that received a suitably dreamlike treatment from the Smetana Trio. The following two movements marked Pantoum (a reference to a Mayan poetic form used by Victor Hugo) and Passacaille were also marked by exquisite playing. The theme of the spirited final movement, marked Animé, is introduced by the piano through a delicate haze of string sound in a masterly blend of the percussive keyboard instrument and the legato singing of the strings. The Ravel trio calls for great virtuosity which was duly supplied by the Smetana Trio.

The final work was the G minor piano trio Op.15 by Bedřich Smetana, regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music. Born in 1824, Smetana gave his first performance as a pianist at the age of six. Despite discouragement from his father, Smetana embarked on a musical career but took some time to become established, having his first real successes in Gothenburg. His personal life was marked by tragedy. In July 1854 his second daughter Gabriele died of tuberculosis and a year later his eldest daughter, Bedřiška, who was already showing signs of musical precocity at the age of four, died of scarlet fever. It was after her death that Smetana started the composition of this trio; a grief filled work relieved by happy, energetic interludes in which the composer seems to be recalling the joy his daughter gave him. It is a work that calls for forceful, intense playing as well as great poignancy, both fully demonstrated by the Smetana Trio in this empathetic performance.

A lively encore by the modern Czech composer Roman Haas, his Postludium and Czardas, rounded off a splendid evening of music making of the highest quality and sent the audience buzzing into the night.


2nd October 2014: LONDON CONCERTANTE
Review by Chris Darwin of Nicholas Yonge Society, Lewes.

First up in the 2014–15 season on Thursday October 2nd was the London Concertante, a flexible group fronted by cellist Chris Grist, which has metamorphosed from a chamber group to an opera orchestra and back again and whose eclectic and often novel repertoire extends from the baroque to the contemporary. For their Chichester concert the group fielded seven players: two violins, two violas, cello, clarinet and horn. Each of the four works they performed was for a different combination.  READ MORE

The first was a Mozart quintet for the unusual grouping of horn, violin, two violas and cello, written at the start of the serious involvement with string quartet writing that produced his revolutionary six quartets dedicated to Haydn. Two violas allow a rich accompaniment that a horn can float over and still be clearly heard, and Peter Francomb's masterly playing was certainly worth hearing: firm of tone and beautifully phrased.

The next work was a fascinating novelty: a sextet for horn, clarinet and string quartet composed by the 19-year old John Ireland as a student under Stanford at the Royal College of Music – it is the only known piece for this combination. The clarinettist Thea King learned of its existence when visiting the 80–year old Ireland in a converted windmill near Chanctonbury Ring; she persuaded him to take it out of the drawer and let it be performed. Anna–Liisa Bezrodny led the sextet with enthusiastic conviction drawing from them a fine performance of an intriguing work. The young Ireland exploited well the varied combinations of instruments that the sextet offers, though he had yet to break away completely with his own voice from the sound–world of Brahms.

The second half of the concert opened with one of the few pieces for string quartet that Puccini wrote – his heart was in opera. His short elegy on the death of the Duke of Savoy, Crisantemi, was played with just the right amount of poignant rubato to warm the audience for the main work of the evening: Mozart's clarinet quintet. Here clarinetist Tom Lessels played superbly. His rich tone and seemingly infinite supply of breath produced, particularly in the slow movement, a melodic line of great beauty. Less successful for the group as a whole were finer points of balance – for instance, Bezrodny’s extreme pianissimos were sometimes difficult to hear. Well–earned, enthusiastic applause from the near capacity audience delivered a contrasting encore – an arrangement of Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion, played with style.


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