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Concert Reviews 2019-2020

The Pixels Ensemble

Robert Schumann

Piano Quartet in E-flat major, Op 47 (1842)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  

Piano Quartet No 1 in G minor, K478 (1785)

Johannes Brahms

Piano Quartet No 3 in C minor, Op 60 (1875)

The evening opened with a splendid and entertaining illustrated talk by Roy Stratford, who lectures at the Wigmore Hall, and who is really multi-talented. The way he illustrates works both on the piano and by recordings, is so clever. All three works that we were going to hear were covered. As usual, Roy’s talk was entertaining and inspiring.

The works were all piano quartets, played by an outstanding group, ‘The Pixels Ensemble’, who all individually had very high credentials. The works were, in order, Robert Schumann’s in E-flat major, Op 47, Mozart’s No 1 in G Minor, K478 and, after the interval, Brahms’ No 3 in C Minor, Op. 60.

As explained in Roy’s talk, Schumann’s work, from the Romantic period, was much influenced by the composer’s mental illness, and his reliance on his wife, Clara. The four movements, Allegro ma non troppo, Scherzo molto vivace, Andante cantabile and the Finale: Vivace, were given inspired treatment with zest and thoughtfulness, as appropriate, and received enthusiastic applause.

The Mozart, with three movements: Allegro, Andante and Rondo: Allegro, demonstrated the contrast between the classical style and the romantic style of Schumann. I’m very fond of Mozart’s operas, and some of the symphonies, particularly K550 (No. 40), and the Jupiter, No. 41. All of the canon, of course, displays the composer’s astounding genius in the classical era. The quartet was quieter that the Schumann, naturally, but the skill of the performers was, once again, fully evident, and the audience fully enjoyed it.

After the interval, we heard the Brahms, perhaps the most impressive work in the concert, being later, and a fitting finale to the evening. I hadn’t known that Schumann had been a benefactor of Brahms, or that Brahms had an affection for Clara Schumann. Whilst Robert was in an asylum, Brahms stayed with Clara, but left when Robert died. It was surprising that he didn’t stay to comfort her; perhaps he was too upset.

Nevertheless, the third movement was like a love letter to Clara, whom he never saw again. The performance was, again, outstanding, and the performers were given even more enthusiastic applause, bringing them back for their final bows.

This season will have performers that are all at the peak of their profession, and the first was an example of what’s to come. Roy Stratford will be giving another talk before the fifth concert, on 22 February, when we have a string quartet playing works by Smetana, Borodin and Dvorak.

Nigel Woods

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