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Tuesday saw the Sorrel Quartet whose communication both within the ensemble and to the audience were the foundations of an excellent programme, most notably Benjamin Britten's late third Quartet. Some disappointment was felt at the non-inclusion of the Elgar Quartet originally advertised on the booking programme, but all was soon dispelled with an often virtuosic David Campbell joining the quartet in Bliss's Clarinet Quintet, Campbell having to perhaps work a little too hard occasionally to be heard above some strident quartet playing.

More unknown corners of the English landscape were explored by the Rogeri Trio with a long and demanding, but very well balanced, programme. The home-coming of a charming Piano Trio by Herbert Sumsion (former organist of Gloucester) was set alongside Bridge's popular Phantasie Trio, a trio by Alan Rawsthorne and a highly rhythmic Trio on Irish Folk Tunes by another interloper, the Swiss composer Frank Martin. Perhaps the great highlight was Edmund Rubbra's beautiful Trio in One Movement, Op 68: this work alone made one wonder why it is that his centenary has passed almost un-noticed this year. The acoustic sometimes took hold of Simon Lepper's excellent work at the piano, whose lid was fully open, making it boom a little, but this, along with the occasional tuning difficulty in the violin, did not detract from an inspiring recital by this young ensemble.

Diversity crept in in no uncertain terms towards the end of the week: pianist Phillip Dyson gave a Billy Mayerl sandwich, whose light pieces framed a programme including Howard Ferguson's Bagatelles, a tribute to the composer who died at the end of last year, and works by William Alwyn (virtually unknown except for his film scores), Rubbra and Malcolm Arnold, a tribute to his eightieth birthday, interspersed with over-indulgent -- one may say egocentric -- introductions from Dyson.

Also in the programme was the première of a new work by Worcester composer Ian Venables, Dyson's Caprice. Although the composer doesn't know Herbert Howells' Howells' and Lambert's Clavichord it relies upon a similar concept to these, being written specifically as a character portrait and dedicated to that person; here Venables was writing with Phillip Dyson and his fluent keyboard technique as guide (Howells' Dyson's Delight in his 1941 set being a portrait of the composer Sir George Dyson). Although lying very much in that genre of English Romanticism, it finds an individual voice of its own in its economical means, being primarily based on a distinctive falling three-note motif. Moving out of the central, more restrained and mournful section into the reprise could perhaps need a little more direction, but the overall work is coherent, engaging and pays the listener well. It might be good to hear the work in some form of context (again similar to the Howells pieces) maybe within a suite or as the central movement of a more explorative sonata-like set. Finzi thought that a song has a greater chance of survival if he waited to group a set of ten together: this could perhaps benefit from the same.

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Copyright © 20 September 2001 Philip Lancaster, Chosen Arts, Bristol, UK





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