Monday 16 July 2007

Thursday's London Concord Singers concert went well. All we have to do now is perform the programme again in Basel in 2 weeks time.

We were away in East Anglia this weekend gone, but I did manage to catch the end of the broadcast of Beethoven's 9th Symphony from the Proms. My main impression was how uncomfortable the BBC Symphony Chorus and the Philharmonia Chorus looked. They were singing without scores and had obviously been instructed to stand with their hands at their sides. This the singers did, rigidly. They sounded engaged. They sounded magnificent, in fact. But they hardly looked like a chorus. Singing is a physical act and I always feel that a chorus should be allowed to express this, within reason of course.

On Saturday night we went to Blackthorpe Barn, at Rougham near Bury St. Edmunds. There, once a year, they have a chamber music festival, with some very high profile names. This year Freddy Kempf played 2 concerts. Next year the line up will include the Belcea Quartet.

We went to see members of the Razumovsky Academy. These are young professionals who have been coached by members of the Razumovsky Ensemble. The 4 string players (Anna Lisa Bezrodny, Florence Cooke, Maya Rasooly and Silver Ainomae) were joined by cellist Oleg Kogan from the Razumovsky Ensemble. The programme was beautifully structured. Kogan and Ainomae started with one of Jean Barriere's Sonatas for 2 Cellos. These were new to me. Barriere wrote a set of sonatas for 2 cellos in the 1730's and 1740's in Paris. The style is very galant and uses a logs of passages in thirds, double stopping etc. Kogan and Ainomae swapped parts between movements so that both had chance to display their virtuosity in the 1st cello part.

This was followed by the delightful Dvorak Terzetto for 2 violins and viola, thus giving the rest of the ensemble chance to shine. Bezrodny, Cooke and Rasooly gave a charming account of the piece.

Then all 5 players came together to play the Schubert Quintet in C (the 2 Cello quintet). The players gave a poised, rather classical account of the piece. Their virtues were ensemble and balance; the performance did have some passion but it was not over done. The barn's acoustics are pretty good but are not very forgiving, you can't hide behind reverb. This meant that one or two slips in ensemble were audible. But given that they do not play regularly together, the results were superb. The first 2 movements, were expansive, long breathed affairs; all the players played in paragraphs, this was real, joined up music making.

The heavenly length of Schubert's late works can prove challenging in the concert hall, even more so when sitting on plastic chairs in a draughty barn. But the members of the Razumovsky Academy gave a performance so enthralling, so beautifully judged, that it had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.

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