London Conchord Ensemble at Wigmore Hall – Poulenc, Mozart & Beethoven

Sextet for Piano and Wind
Adagio and Rondo in C minor, K617
Quintet in E flat for Piano and Wind, Op.16

London Conchord Ensemble [Daniel Pailthorpe (flute), Emily Pailthorpe (oboe), Maxmiliano Martin (clarinet), Andrea de Flammineis (bassoon), Nicholas Korth (horn), Douglas Patterson (viola), Thomas Carroll (cello) & Julian Milford (piano)]

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 9 January, 2012
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

The London Conchord Ensemble is an interchangeable group of wind and string soloists drawn from the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Royal Opera House Orchestra. For this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall the players provided an invigorating hour of music.

First up was a brightly coloured performance of Poulenc’s Sextet, with incisive ensemble and punchy rhythms. The central section of the first movement offered a relatively languid contrast, though grew far more impassioned before resorting to the enjoyably coarse textures of the faster music. The Ensemble also caught this particular work’s mixture of brief bursts of lyricism and attractive, extrovert flourishes, while in the central Andantino there were attractive solos from Emily Pailthorpe and Andrea de Flammineis, the latter exhibiting superb breath-control in a testing melodic line.

Mozart’s final chamber work followed; an unusual combination of instruments that again found attractive colours in this performance. The forces here were piano, flute, oboe, viola and cello, the piano replacing the delicate sonorities of the glass harmonica for which the composer originally. The musicians played both movements affectionately; although the one marked Grave could have provided more tension to be released in the genial Rondo.

With his Piano and Wind Quintet of 1796 Beethoven was paying homage to Mozart’s mastery of the same instrumental combination in K452, also in E flat. The first movement, ambitious in scale, is larger than the second and third movements combined, and was performed here with a nice sense of dialogue between the forces. Julian Milford gradually asserted the piano part as an outright solo with well-executed quick-fire scales. In the slow movement however the pianist had much more poetic license than the winds, subjecting the thematic material to more-pronounced rubato, which led to two different presentations of the melody. At the centre of the performance was a clear enjoyment of this wonderful music, and the finale – with one of those tunes that stays in the listener’s mind long after the performance – was notable for its delightful phrasing and keen interplay between the musicians.

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