Bath Mozartfest, Friday 15th November

THERE was a time when baseball addicts in the USA were very fond of Double­headers, two games between the same teams played back to back on the same day.

It is stretching the imagination  a little to say that audiences were offered a double header with a String Quartet, plus guests, in the Guildhall at 3 pm and solo pianist in the Assembly Rooms at 7.30.  But it requires the same dedication and love of the subject to set out on this long musical feast, even with time between concerts for a visit to a local watering hole or restaurant.

If you make the musical journey, you were rewarded with a wonderful differing mixture of musical sounds. At the Guildhall you were introduced to the Aris Quartet (pictured), two violins, viola and cello, who although now in their tenth year together, still have that vibrancy of young players who give the impression that they are coming to a work for the first time.

They were joined by guests horn player Alec Frank-Gemmill and violist Eivind Ring­stad in a concert which was recorded by BBC 3 as part of their New Generation Artists Showcase, to be broadcast in January.

Mozart’s Quintet in E flat major for horn and strings was by far the flashiest of the three works on offer, and with Alec Frank-Gemmill leading the way with some lovely controlled playing, varying from the most delicate of tones to brash vibrant sounds, it was indeed very exciting.

In an interview before Mozart’s String Quintet in G minor, Eivind Ringstad left no one in any doubt that the addition of a second viola, instead of another cello, would benefit the music no end. He and the Quartet then proved the point with a dazzling display of string playing which pleased the audience as much as it obviously had pleased those who were playing the music.

On arrival at the Assembly Rooms we were greeted with the news that Imogen Cooper  had been forced by indisposition  to cancel her recital of three Schubert Sonatas, C minor, A major, B flat major, but fortunately Barry Doug­las was on hand to take over. Two different Schubert Sonatas, D major and A minor, were included in the programme placed  either side of four of Brahms Seven Fantasies Op 116, no 1, 4, 6 and 7.

You could not get two people much further apart than Cooper and Douglas, either physically or temperamentally. Miss Cooper’s gentle, understated style contrasts with Barry Douglas’s almost aggressive interpretation. He barely gave the audience time to settle in their seats before attacking Schubert’s Sonata in D major with fire and passion, and repeated the dose with the playing of Sonata A minor.

More enjoyable was the playing of the four pieces from Brahms Seven Fantasies, where he proved that for all that he has the appearance of a large second row rugby forward, and plays with great power and drive, he is still more than capable when required to display a delicate touch producing a gentle more romantic tone to the music.


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