YCAT concert at Wigmore Hall – Adam Walker, Mark Simpson & Heath Quartet

Flute Quartet in D, K285
Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op.115

Heath Quartet [Oliver Heath & Cerys Jones (violins), Gary Pomeroy (viola) & Christopher Murray (cello)] with Adam Walker (flute) & Mark Simpson (clarinet)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 2 October, 2012
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Heath String Quartet. Photograph: www.heathquartet.comThe 2012-13 YCAT (Young Classical Artist Trust) residence at Wigmore Hall began with an attractive pairing of works that could be said to represent the transition of seasons, with Mozart’s summery Flute Quartet complemented by autumnal Brahms.

The Mozart had appropriately light and airy textures, with Adam Walker leading a performance that delighted in the profusion of melodies. Cerys Jones took the First Violin role, leading the accompaniment and enjoying exclusivity of the impish second theme of the finale. Walker approached the Adagio as if singing an aria, his line having poise, restraint and natural phrasing, aided by pointed pizzicatos. In the outer movements his dexterity was striking, the rapid passagework easily but very musically negotiated.

For the Brahms a serious, weightier tone was immediately in evidence, the close-knit exchanges from the Heath musicians much darker in colour and meticulously detailed, although now-leader Oliver Heath could have projected more, especially in the muted Adagio. Mark Simpson’s breath control was significant to the success of his performance, and by listening carefully to the Heath members he achieved the ideal dynamic balance. However when climax points were reached, his tone became rather shrill, the volume pushed too far. The slow movement was especially attractive, unfolded as one flowing phrase. The ‘theme and variations’ finale was strongly characterised, Christopher Murray’s cello taking the lead authoritatively. When the music turned ultimately to the minor key, and a reminder of the opening theme, the mood became sombre, and the close was thoughtfully judged.

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