Simply Bewitching

MIKE WHEELER listens to chamber music by Schubert and Fauré from Ruth Rogers, Fiona Bonds, Katherine Jenkinson, Benjamin Russell and Viv Mclean


Derby Chamber Music's latest season ended on a real high with, I'm told, its second-largest attendance ever - Multi-Faith Centre, Derby University, Derby, UK, 2 April 2023.

The society's patron, cellist Katherine Jenkinson was back, this time with three string principals from the London Mozart Players: Ruth Rogers, violin (no stranger to DCM), Fiona Bonds, viola, and Benjamin Russell, double bass, with pianist Viv Mclean.

They began with Schubert's String Trio Movement, D 471, all that he completed of a projected longer work. The players highlighted its appealing blend of Mozart, especially the very opening, and glimpses of the mature Schubert, sometimes in the same phrase.

Fauré's chamber music is one of the glories of the French repertoire, and his Piano Quartet No 1 is now a well-established favourite. Taking off from a firm opening, this performance felt relaxed without losing forward movement, the players engaging in a genuine four-way conversation. They also showed that in Fauré's hands, C minor was not a dark key but warm and glowing. The understated ending was a delight.

The Scherzo second movement positively bubbled, and the trio section's muted string passage was simply bewitching. The third movement was treated as a steady ascent, allowed to unfold in its own good time, while the finale was full of vitality. The central quiet, withdrawn passage had a proper sense of mystery, and the move into the final section had the feeling of a crucial corner magically turned.

The whole performance celebrated Fauré's capacity for investing idiomatic instrumental lines with a genuinely vocal quality, unexpectedly, but aptly, putting me in mind of Samuel Barber, who had a similar knack.

Schubert's 'Trout' Quintet brought all the players together. From assertive opening to quiet, gentle continuation, the first movement sparkled, with some punchy accents on the one hand, moments of breathtaking hush - not least after the start of the development section - on the other. After that, the second movement was a gentle stroll. Schubert's wholesale repeat of the first half a semitone higher stepped out nonchalantly. Following a spring-heeled reading of the Scherzo, the theme and variations began in a gentle frame of mind. In Variation 1, piano and rustling strings off-set each other to beguiling effect. The viola's turn with the tune, in No 2, was expressive, with the violin line dancing overhead, Variation 3 had energy, No 4 some powerful contrasts. The cello line in Variation 5 was plaintive, but it all came to a sprightly conclusion in No 6, following which, the Finale couldn't help but be a torrent of playful exuberance.

Derby Chamber Music

Everyone was clearly delighted with this end to the season. Derby Chamber Music's new era certainly seems to have bedded in firmly.

Copyright © 17 April 2023 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK



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