The Red Hedgehog Summer Gala Concert

Piano Quartet No.3 in C minor, Op.60
Quintet in A, D667 (Trout)

Paul Barritt (violin), Louise Williams (viola), Josephine Horder (cello), Roberto Carrillo-Garcia (double bass) & James Lisney (piano)

Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 14 July, 2007
Venue: The Red Hedgehog, Highgate, London N6

In all probability, the Red Hedgehog experience is unique. It is not a concert hall; it is a chamber, and as such an intimate venue. Two banks of chairs enclose the performers’ playing area. Through a superb acoustic, sounds reach our ears with pulsing immediacy, close and undistorted.

In a very special sense, we are present at a performance taking place right in front of our eyes. We, the audience, are partners in this making of music. We sit right next to the performers, virtually joining them as they lean forward to concentrate, sit back and relax, watch other players keenly or wait in repose until their own entry is due. We see the sweat on their brows and feel the pages of the music being turned.

Paul Barritt introduced the Brahms quartet, pointing out its associations with the tortured romantic involvement of the composer with Clara Schumann – noting along the way Brahms’s explicit references to the sorrows and suicide of Werther. After a stern, dramatic bar from the piano, the first violin introduces a ‘Clara’ motif, urgent and intense. Much of the first movement is a stormy dialogue between piano and violin (James Lisney and Barritt) with viola and cello underpinning the tempestuous mood. The scherzo is, for Brahms, something of an acerbic whirlwind. The softer-grained slow movement gave Josephine Horder her first opportunity to demonstrate what a lovely, flowing, melodic line she can coax from her cello. The last movement, far from being lovelorn, was dark and savage. The inner torment raged on.

After the interval, Roberto Carrillo-Garcia joined us for the ‘Trout’, which James Lisney introduced as a work that has far more than its famous fourth movement to offer. Clearly, the performers enjoyed this work: you could see their eyes dancing in delight and smiles coming to their lips. The ‘Trout’ is no doddle, however. The writing is very demanding in places and the ensemble often intricate. Lisney played with a clear-cut style and poise: the ringing, rippling, carillon of his piano held the work together and defined its lively, high-spirited tone. Barritt gave his all, noticeably relaxed and enjoying himself. Horder produced some lovely sounds – as did Louise Williams, when her viola part came to the fore. As Lisney threatened/promised, Carrillo-Garcia was in many ways the star of the performance. He adapted the volume of his double bass to suit the salon, making it a delight to be able to hear his part fully and clearly, whether establishing the ground lightly and trippingly, accompanying, or playing some party piece of a solo.

This was joyous music-making – a rousing culmination to the splendours of The Red Hedgehog’s first full season. I look forward to the riches of the next season, beginning on 29 September.

  • The Red Hedgehog
  • The Red Hedgehog is situated at 255-257 Archway Road, Highgate, London, N6 5BS
  • Box Office: 020 8348 5050

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