Adderbury Ensemble concerts I have been to before (and I try to go to them as often as I can) have always been string concerts - quartets and quintets.Tonight’s performance was a bit different: piano (Viv Mclean) with a trio of violin (Simon Blendis), viola (Rose Redgrave) and cello (Jane Fenton).
After a brief introductory Schumann Romance, we settled down to the beautiful melodies of Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G minor. Legend has it (the very comprehensive, readable notes say) that Mozart was commissioned to write 3 quartets but this, the first, was so difficult for both players and audience that he was paid not to write the other two.This was because, up until then, the piano had always been the main instrument with the strings merely accompaniment and the string musicians of that day were not good enough to play such demanding music.Hard to imagine, now, how such a sublime piece could be rejected in such a way.The mellow harmony of the three string instruments and the bell-like notes of the Steinway blended beautifully, filling the church with movement and passion.
The second half of the concert was Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E flat; the notes state that this piece is not as popular as Schumann’s Quintet and with reason, as the three strings struggled to hold their own against the piano. I did not feel this to be the case and, moreover, I think this is a wonderful piece to watch live. Recordings are great (and the Adderbury Ensemble’s version of the Four Seasons is outstanding), but to see the interaction of the players in this piece is fascinating, particularly in the second movement, the Scherzo. In this movement, the piano and the cello race off together and that theme is picked up one after the other by the other instruments, each playing in different harmonic duos. It is just beautiful.
The Adderbury Ensemble really deserves a wider audience.They are a group of talented musicians who play in various groupings in Oxford (St John the Evangelist and Oxford Coffee Concerts in Holywell Music Room, both lovely settings with good acoustics), in Adderbury of course and further afield too.They are back at St John the Evangelist on 12th November and at Holywell on 15th November and 20th December. On 30th November, David Le Page and Viv Mclean (both Adderbury Ensemblers) are at St Johns for an evening of Brahms and the gypsy spirit. I highly recommend them.