In the private atmosphere of St Margaret’s Church, the Divinity Quintet and Bailey Quartet performed their first joint concert, with a selection of challenging repertoire.
The concert opened with Mozart’s Divertimento no. 16 in Eb major with a close, intimate feel. The oboe, clarinet and horn blended beautifully and there was a clear bassoon line, played by Saul Rigg. Generally, there were nice contrasts and phrasing in the Adagio-Allegro.
Throughout the Allegro, the horn, played by George Evans-Thomas, seemed a little tentative at times. However Ellie Knott’s flute playing was bright and clear, whilst Catherine Walker, played gorgeous oboe solos in both the Allegro and Minuet and Trio, rising above the texture with lovely phrasing and dynamics. The closing Presto was dexterous and there were good contrasts between faster, more lively passages and the slower lyrical ones.
Following this, the Bailey Quartet offered us Mendelssohn’s 2nd String Quartet in A minor. The piece opened with a lovely piano section before launching into a driven Allegro-Vivace, with stirring melodic lines. The cello, played by Margot King, had a gorgeous sound and the pizzicato lines were particularly well executed, with secure and assured playing throughout. Although there was good dynamic contrast, the quieter sections could have done with even more hushed intensity. The second movement, Allegro non Lento, was nice and calm with charming interplay between the first and second violin. Ermos Chrysochos’ tone and accuracy on first violin increased in confidence as the piece progressed. This could have been improved, although I was informed that a last minute bow change before the concert may have affected his playing. The Intermezzo was nicely paced and there were pleasing interjections from the second violin line, played by Charlotte Strivens. The viola, played by Takeo Broadhurst had a truly lovely tone but generally could have been more confident and played out a bit more. The Presto’s change of mood was well captured with dramatic tremolos and the cello solo was melodic and well executed. The quartet closed with an Adagio non Lento with careful attention to dynamics and good contrast, the second violin providing lovely colours. Overall, a good first performance showcasing the group’s musicianship.
Ibert’s Trois pièces brèves provided a refreshing burst of energy to the start of the 2nd half and set a wholly different tone for the rest of the concert. Although the first movement could have done with a little more clarity in the fiddly sections, particularly in the triplet passages, there was confident and lyrical playing from the oboe. The second movement opened with a charming duet between the flute and the clarinet and the balance and dynamic contrast was good, although the flute was sometimes drowned out by the others and the players could have gone even quieter in the piano sections.
The third movement closed off the piece with a beautifully handled, lively and sparkling clarinet solo by Josh Ward and there was a good build-up of energy towards the end.
The Nielsen Quintet Op.43 was a delightful yet demanding choice and the quintet handled it well. Whilst the opening bassoon solo took some time to settle and there were a few slips in the flute, there was nice lyrical horn playing with good projection. Despite the first movement feeling a little cautious, the players gradually built up confidence, with some impressive finger-work by the clarinet in the second movement and some very pleasing phrasal contours. The third movement was well-mastered, featuring a confident flute solo, good control of the faster passages in the clarinet and a strong lower register in the bassoon. I did feel however that the tone and intonation of the cor anglais could have been improved. Overall, the Quintet must be commended for a stylish display and a good attempt at a very difficult piece.