Bath Mozart Fest, Cuarteto Casals with Paul Lewis piano, Assembly Rooms

THE fact that the Mozart Fest has returned to Bath after the trials and tribulations and uncertainties of the past year or so is a triumph in itself. Chairman Sir David Bell and his fellow directors had to take a tremendous amount on trust, right down to printing programmes for a Fest which at the time of printing was by no means a certainty to take place.
It was in this atmosphere that artistic director Amelia Freedman had to set about assembling a programme of fifteen concert, and it is a minor miracle that she has come up with a programme of such quality. Between November 13th and 20th, when the Fest will end with a concert by the English Chamber Orchestra, there is a dazzling array of musical talent on view, including two visits from the Mozart fest’s most ardent and regular contributors the Nash Ensemble.
Barcelona based Cuarteto Casals and pianist Paul Lewis, got proceedings underway with a well balanced programme of works by Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Schumann, quickly settling the audience down, making them forget that with a 11am start it was still light outside the Assembly Rooms, where all this seasons’ concerts are being presented.
During the quartets playing of Mozart’s String Quartet No 15in D minor, and when joined by Paul Lewis for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 12 in A major, the lighting which was in place to assist a video recording, took on a life of its own, because of outside interference,  switching itself on an off at intervals. Apart from a few quizzical looks between the musicians there was no sign in their playing that they were aware of the electrical fault at all.
By the time Paul Lewis returned after the interval to play five Songs without words by Mendelssohn, the lights were behaving themselves. He played these with an ease that made them appear to be no more difficult that an early practice piece for a novice pianist. Op 30 No 3 in E minor which ended the five songs was indeed an appropriate choice with which to finish putting the icing on the musical cake.
Similar remarks could be made about Cuarteto Casals choice of Schumann’s String Quartet No 3 in A major, to end the concert. Bouncing musical ideas off one another like a quartet of finely tuned farce actors, the quartet moved from cheeky ebullience to quiet moments of meditation, ensuring that the long awaited Mozart fest 2021 had hit the ground running


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