In Nomine * David Matthews
String Quartet No.6 Geoffrey Palmer
Angel Music * James Francis Brown
String Trio Peter Fribbins
Clarinet Quintet *
[Mark Wilson & Neil McTaggart (violins) Morgan Goff (viola)
Nick Allen (cello)]
with Katherine Spencer (clarinet)
* First performance
The Solaris Quartet with Katherine Spencer - 23rd April
Tuesday, April 23, 2002 Purcell Room, London
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
There was little to frighten the horses here; it was almost as if the twentieth-century had never happened.
An air of civility links these composers, so too various degrees of undisguised derivation. There was nothing more economic than David Matthewss Sixth Quartet, the heart of this three-movement, 15-minute work being an elegiac in memoriam slow movement that left nerves unexposed; perhaps the very integrity of Matthewss craft is also its undoing; the Finale owes something to Tippett.
Alan Millss In Nomine (for string trio) bestrides the ages by borrowing from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. These quotes peer through the centuries just as in Vaughan Williams (but not on his level). Hindemith (in Gebrauchsmusik mode) and the trenchancy of Robert Simpson combine for a web of contrapuntal dexterity but with the distinction of neither.
Suspect intonation and uncertain ensemble did not help Millss cause, and possibly made Geoffrey Palmers Angel Music (clarinet quintet) seem longer than 16 minutes English Hymnal, VWs Lark Ascending and Deliuss Cuckoo (if you use Delian harmony and introduce a clarinet ) come together but have their wings clipped by recherché quarter-tones.
The second half found the performers altogether more confident. The best (and longest) piece was the 22-minute String Trio of James Francis Brown, a mix of Stravinsky neo-classicism, Beethovenian strength and Mozartian grace; a sonata-form movement followed by a set of variations. Theres an appreciable craft and imagination to Browns music and a warm communication that makes this work one to return to, and a wish to hear more of Browns music.
Bartókian nervous intensity and scurrying (the world of the Fourth and Fifth Quartets) informs the first two movements of Peter Fribbinss Clarinet Quintet, the Trio of the second movement Scherzo especially memorable for its wistful expression. The more piercing E flat clarinet is used for the remaining movements, a shadowy, slender Interlude that moves seamlessly into the final Lento that reviews previous material, somewhat nebulously.