Tuesday 5 July 2011


On Saturday we went to King Place for the last in the concerts billed as John Woolrich and friends. This one was given by members of the Britten Sinfonia; a string sextet led by Thomas Gould plus Christopher Cowie on oboe and cor anglais. There were a couple of themes running through the concert. The first was the string sextet plus oboe. We had the full sextet in Strauss's Prelude to Capriccio and Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht, then a subset plus oboe in the Mozart Oboe Quartet. But only in Woolrich's Quiddities did all 7 performers come together.

But there was a literary subtext as well. Capriccio is of course famously based in the words or music dilemma and the prelude is supposedly the work of a composer whom the Countess Madeleine is dallying; her dalliance with both the composer and a librettist forms the engine of the plot. Then Schoenberg's piece is based on a poem by Richard Dehmel. Finally Woolrich's Quiddities is inspired by a Robert Walser short story, Lake Greifen.

This was an intelligent and involving programme, all beautifully played with some stylish Strauss and Mozart and a beautifully textured account of the Schoenberg. Woolrich's piece, with solo cor anglais rather than oboe was ellusive and I felt a little frustrated that the literary references were not familiar to me, so that I could not place how they linked to Woolrich's music. This latter was fascinating for his use of textures, with much plucking from the strings.

The programme booklet was admirably inexpensive (£1) but the information about the music itself was brief, evidently deliberately so; presumably encouraging us to listen rather than arrive with preconceptions.

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