Friday 20 September 2013

London International Players

The London International Players
The London International Players are a newly formed chamber ensemble of young musicians who got to know each other at the Menhuin School and at IMS Prussia Cove. They made their Wigmore Hall debut on Thursday 19 September at a lunchtime concert, presenting a varied programme of music by Mozart, Mahler, Bax and Mendelssohn. Founded by flautist Ana de la Vega, the group consists of de la Vega, violinist Daniel Roth, violist Ruth Gibson, cellist Ashok Klouda, pianist Irina Botan and harpist Martino Panizza.

The opened with Mozart's Flute Quartet no. 1 in D major D 285, one of a pair written for a wealthy Dutch amateur flautist. Played by Rohn, Gibson, Klouda and de la Vega, with a full bodied sound and a lively tone in the strings. The opening Allegro set the tone, with de la Vega's flute set off in quasi-concerto manner. De la Vega displayed some nice even passage-work, brought out the piece's civilised charm. The Adagio brought some limpid beauty from the flute, accompanied by pizzicato strings. The final Rondeau was a lively piece played with a nice degree of dash. Though the flute was spotlit, the other players seized their moment and you sensed a collegiality.

Gustav Mahler's Piano Quartet is an early work, written in 1876-1878 though the manuscript only came to light in the 1960's. It opened with a darkly romantic piano part full of throbbing chords, hardly the voice of the mature Mahler and much more akin to Brahms. A rather lovely piece, which developed into some nicely throbbing passion which the players gave full value to.

Arnold Bax's Elegiac Trio for flute, viola and harp was written just after Debussy's sonata of 1915 for the same forces. Bax wrote it in the aftermath of the Easter Rising. The instrumental combination with the harp texture and the veiled sound of the viola as bass gave the work a luminous quality, and the whole seems to float untethered. Of course, the piece has a very Celtic feel and Bax seemed over reliant on the arpeggio figures in the harp. But de la Vega, Gibson and Panizza clearly relished the work's sound world and brought out it's sense of elegant melancholy.

Felix Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in D minor dates from 1839, the peak of Mendelssohn's maturity; a substantial work in four movements. The opening Molto allegro et agitato started with a beautifully flowing piano park, complemented by a dark chocolate cello sound. There was an easy fluency and grace to the music in performance, and an amazing flow of melodies from Mendelssohn's pen. The Andante con moto tranquillo was a song without words, with the piano introducing the material each time and then being joined by the violin and cello, the movement developing a strong vein of romantic passion. By contrast, the Scherzo saw the arrival of the fairies in a delightful light textured movement. The finale started with something of the folk-dance about the material but not Mendelssohn's treatment of it, which included some pretty dazzling piano work. This was a keen and vivid performance, and very involving with a clear feel for Mendelssohn music. The group's performance rightly drew enthusiastic applause from the audience.

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