Wednesday 3 September 2008

Proms Chamber Music

On Monday we went to Cadogan Hall to hear the penultimate Proms Chamber Music concert. The Nash Ensemble with tenor Mark Padmore gave Samuel Taylor-Coleridge's Clarinet Quintet and Ralph Vaughan William's On Wenlock Edge in the version for tenor, piano and string quartet.

Taylor-Coleridge was only 20, and still studying with Stanford, when he wrote the Clarinet Quintet. It is a beautifully melodic and precocious work. Supremely confident in its handling of the medium and material with the later movements not a little indebted to Dvorak. Rather than being an undiscovered masterpiece the work displays charm and promise. The Nash ensemble gave a fine performance but at the end we came away feeling that the piece was melodic but somehow insubstantial.

RVW's song cycle was shorter than the Taylor-Coleridge but far more substantial Mark Padmore gave a finely honed account, paying close attention to the meaning of the text with his usual superb diction. Some of the most haunting moments were the quieter ones; Padmore's voice seemed slightly uncomfortable when under high pressure at the top. A small price to pay for his intense communicability.

I applaud the BBC for giving the Taylor-Coleridge and an outing but at nearly 40 minutes duration it seemed a little too long for the concert. I would love to have heard some more from Padmore, preferably in works as substantial as the RVW

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