BROMSGROVE CONCERTS by Christopher Morley
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One of the many effects of the several snow white-outs the Midlands suffered last winter was the cancellation of a concert by the Eblana String Trio scheduled for performance as part of the Bromsgrove Concerts series on March 2.
In fact that cancellation happily proved to be merely a postponement, as the original programme has now been booked for Bromsgrove on March 22 2019. The menu is decidedly a British one, with works by Purcell, Finzi, David Matthews (who is currently celebrating his 75th birthday) and E.J.Moeran. The only interloper is a certain German composer going by the name of Beethoven.
The Eblana's violinist is Jonathan Martindale, assistant leader of the CBSO since 2016. Lucy Nolan is the violist, with her sister Peggy as cellist.
Bromsgrove Concerts' habitual home is the Artrix, where this event will take place. But the opening concert of the season will in fact be given in the splendid Routh Hall at Bromsgrove School, the venue where the featured soloist, violinist Emily Sun, won the prestigious Bromsgrove International Musicians Competition in 2017.
Accompanying Emily in this 28 September concert is pianist Gamal Khamis. Three of the works on the programme are mainstream repertoire, by Schubert, Grieg and Poulenc, but following Bromsgrove Concerts' enlightened policy of mixing the old with the new, we will also hear Torua, composed in 2013 by the New Zealand-born Dame Gillian Whitehead, and the Concert Fantasy on themes from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess by the Russian violinist Igor Frolov.
Settling back at Artrix, the concert on November 9 brings the Atea Wind Quintet (Associate Ensemble in Residence at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire) with a roster of pieces of which all but one originate well within the last century (Nielsen's Wind Quintet, Frank Bridge's Divertimenti, Bozza's Trois Pieces pour Une Musique de Nuit, Mike Mower's Jazz Suite of 2010).
The exception is an arrangement of excerpts from Bach's Goldberg Variations, a masterpiece of the keyboard canon which has of recent years undergone transcriptions for a range of chamber ensembles.
November 30 brings the Gould Piano Trio to Bromsgrove, together with clarinettist Robert Plane. The concert-opener is striking enough in itself, Ravel's haunting and gripping Piano Trio, but there are even more riches to follow. Huw Watkins' Quartet, commissioned by the Goulds and Plane, and premiered at the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford last July completes the first half.
After the interval there comes an aural revelation, Rimsky-Korsakov's sumptuous symphonic suite Scheherazade re-arranged for piano trio and clarinet by Florian Noack and Benjamin Engeli. We have already marvelled at a transcription of this dazzling piece for piano solo. Now we have the chance to assess how such a work of virtuosic, colourful and evocative orchestration can possibly transfer its timbres to a modest chamber ensemble.
The first event in the Bromsgrove Concerts series in the New Year of 2019 sees the Zelkova String Quartet, winners of the St Martin-in-the-Fields chamber music competition, and boasting a line-up containing even more siblings than that of the Eblana String Trio, bringing a programme of Haydn (his Opus 64. no 2 in the very rare key of B minor), Bartok and Beethoven (the second Razumovsky Quartet, that in E minor).
Bromsgrove Concerts' encouraging contemporary thread is here continued with the String Quartet (1990) by Judith Weir, Master of the Queen's Music and previously a much-loved Composer-in-Residence with the CBSO.
Endymion presents a fascinating programme on February 8, when violinist Krysia Osostowicz (whom devotees of Festive Classics' complete Shostakovich quartet cycle will have heard with the Dante Quartet), hornist Stephen Stirling and pianist Michael Dussek play a Beethoven violin sonata, followed by horn trios by Ligeti and Brahms.
February 22 brings the Lawson Piano Trio with a mouthwatering programme of Andrzej Panufnik (one-time principal conductor of the CBSO), Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Dvorak. The wild card is the Suite for Piano Trio by Paul Juon, a Russian-born Swiss composer, certainly a novelty to me, and probably to many other listeners.
Next comes the Eblana String Trio, and Bromsgrove Concerts' season ends with a visit from the Piatti String Quartet on April 5. Works by Haydn and Schubert frame the String Quartet no.1 by the much-in-demand Joseph Phibbs, commissioned and premiered by the Piatti in 2014. Their recording is due to be released on the Champs Hill label around the time of this concert.
*Bromsgrove Concerts (8pm) details on 01527 577330.