Ensemble 360 at Wigmore Hall – Bach, Mendelssohn, and Robert & Clara Schumann

The Musical Offering, BWV1079 – Trio-Sonata in C minor
Piano Trio No.1 in D-minor, Op.49
Robert Schumann
Romance, Op.94/1 [Nicht schnell]
Clara Schumann
Romance in D-flat, Op.22/1
Robert Schumann
Romance, Op.94/2 [Einfach, innig]
Clara Schumann
Romance in G-minor, Op.22/2
Robert Schumann
Romance, Op.94/3 [Nicht schnell]
Piano Quintet in E-flat, Op.44

Ensemble 360 [Samuel Coles (flute), Adrian Wilson (oboe), Matthew Hunt (clarinet), Naomi Atherton (horn), Claudia Ajmone-Marsan & Benjamin Nabarro (violins), Ruth Gibson (viola), Gemma Rosefield (cello) & Tim Horton (piano)]

Reviewed by: Edward Clark

Reviewed: 11 November, 2016
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Ensemble 360Photograph: ensemble360.co.ukThis recital opened a weekend-long, mini-festival at Wigmore Hall of decidedly odd programme planning. Ensemble 360 is a group of talented, disparate performers, who on this occasion were either fully occupied or not occupied at all!

So Adrian Wilson and Matthew Hunt came on for cameo roles and poor Samuel Coles and Naomi Atherton simply did not appear at all (she does get to perform in Carl Reinecke’s Trio and he some Bach). Whereas Tim Horton and Benjamin Nabarro played in all the pieces, leaving Gemma Rosefield, Ruth Gibson and Claudia Ajmone-Marsan to share the honours elsewhere.

I found this mixing and matching rather disconcerting as there was no continuity in either the repertoire or the grouping of instruments.

To start a programme devoted largely to early/mid German Romantic repertoire with the C-minor Trio-Sonata from The Musical Offering seemed a complete anachronism, particularly where the continuo part was shared by a cello and a Steinway piano! I simply could not adjust my expectations hearing (albeit played with delightful restraint by Tim Horton) a piano tinkling away in the background when the violinist and oboist were spinning their magic over the four movements.

Prospects were raised for Mendelssohn’s great D-minor Piano Trio but, again, disappointment arose in the first two movements due to a continuation of the Baroque coolness heard in Bach which denied Mendelssohn’s music the necessary passion warranted to this arresting, dramatic and glorious music. The remaining two movements went well with a deft lightness of touch in the mercurial Scherzo and, at last, a proper approach to the marking of Allegro assai appassionato. But this was a lopsided reading of a masterpiece.

Following the interval came salon pieces by Mr and Mrs Schumann; Three Romances for clarinet and piano by Robert interspersed with two from Clara, from Opus 22 for violin and piano. All were appropriately intimate. So, with baited breath and a desire for fulfilment, I awaited Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet. This performance alone made my attendance worthwhile. It had the necessary surge in all the right places and also a poetic response to some of Schumann’s most sublime utterances.

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