Chamber Music No.2

String Trio in B flat, D471
String Quintet in C, K515

Zukerman Chamber Players:

Pinchas Zukerman (violin)
Jessica Linnebach (violin)
Donnie Deacon (viola)
Jethro Marks (viola)
Amanda Forsyth (cello)

Reviewed by: Nick Breckenfield

Reviewed: 26 July, 2004
Venue: Lecture Theatre, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

After his studied indifference while playing Elgar’s Violin Concerto the night before at the Royal Albert Hall (where his most demonstrative gesture was hurling the bouquet of flowers, immediately as presented, into the Arena – I wondered if, in a bride’s-bouquet analogy, the catcher would have to play the solo part in the next Proms performance of that particular concerto), Zukerman was back, this time with colleagues from his National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottawa in a recital at the start of a major European tour.

Zukerman certainly seemed more involved, smiling at times as he glanced at the other players, while the programme of Schubert and Mozart provided a perfect Monday lunchtime’s musical interlude. It gave the packed V & A Lecture Theatre audience a real treat, even in the rising heat (the air conditioning is switched off during the live broadcast.

With cellist Amanda Forsyth and violist Donnie Deacon, Zukerman offered us first Schubert’s early String Trio movement, composed when he was 19 and left to stand alone (although a few bars of a second movement were composed), perhaps – as Stephanie Hughes suggested in her introduction – because he found the medium of a string trio (as opposed to a piano trio) difficult to manage.

Mozart had his difficulties with the string quintets he wrote in 1787, when he needed to raise money. Seemingly the buying public were not particularly interested in the idea of a string quartet with an extra viola part. Of course, if they could have heard Zukerman and friends play the C major Quintet they would have changed their minds. Mozart at least got some artistic value out of the composition; revelling in the freeing up of the first viola (here played by Jethro Marks, looking absurdly tall to the smaller Donnie Deacon, on second) which allows it to have a much more lyrical virtuosity (akin to Zukerman as first violin), especially in the slow movement.

While we were offered no encore – and there were a good few minutes to spare – this was choice music-making and a real tonic. Perhaps lunchtime chamber recitals should be available to all office workers to restore the daily batteries.

  • Concert rebroadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Saturday 31 July at midday
  • BBC Proms 2004

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