IN the face of problems ranging from illness to bureaucratic red tape and more, the festival set sail on Thursday and lost no time in doing what it does best – providing excellent music to soothe the soul.
Vaughan Williams forms the theme running through much of the weekend’s music and it was fitting that the festival opened with his first quartet, paired this evening with a work from one of his erstwhile tutors.
Like so much of this composer’s rewarding output, the music swiftly scoops the listener up and sets him down in the midst of a walk deep in the countryside with the composer for company. The views open out before us in expansive passages and the country hiker’s love of a folk tune means one is never far from his lips.
Ravel’s Quartet in F has many similarities as a work, indeed the influence of one composer on another is well documented. Here again, thanks to the rich tones and sweeping phrasing of the Sacconi Quartet we are strolling in the open again. This time though there is the unmistakable feeling of a warmer sun on our backs and a comparatively easier pace.
Both works feature notable slow movements. The Vaughan Williams uses all the English love of melody to produce something which, as is so often the case in chamber music, achingly sad and at the same time upliftingly beautiful. Ravel’s slow sections are almost a test of how quietly a player can play before losing the shape and sound of a note completely. The quartet passed that test perfectly.
The Sacconi Quartet bring a fair measure of experience to both these pieces having presented them as an intriguing pairing in previous concerts. And the enjoyment of revisiting familiar pathways is evident in a performance full of intense concentration but not without flamboyance when invited.
Pianist Emma Abbate joined for a spirited performance of Elgar’s Piano Quintet in A Minor. This is a work which, unsurprisingly given the upheaval in the composer’s life and the world around him, seems to take a while to settle.
Substantial passages in the opening and closing movements seem to keep the quartet and the piano at arms length, the former giving the impression of closing ranks while the latter makes rebutted attempts to join the party.
But it all comes together in the sumptuous adagio which forms the meat in the sandwich and the playing became as harmonious as one could wish.
The Festival continues over the weekend with full details at leamingtonmusic.org