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<<  -- 2 --  Malcolm Miller    MEETING OF MINDS


The pointed articulation of Mozart and autumnal colours of the Brahms songs were synthesised in the final work, a dramatic and ultimately galvanising Brahms Piano Quintet, in which the quartet was joined by second violin Katharine Gowers. The first movement's sinewy main theme was richly projected in its myriad variants, while the contrasting martial theme, each time introduced by the piano, stood out like a leitmotif to signal major structural arrival points. Here there was a case to be made for a raised piano lid, for while the strings and piano bass resonated strongly in the generous acoustics, Brahms's orchestral textures and the piano's prowess needed more stridency in the upper range, where Kovacevich was sometimes well nigh inaudible. His somewhat detached rendering of the slow movement's somnambulant lullaby theme heightened the contrast to its impassioned second theme, yet overall this was a beautifully poised interpretation of one of the most amazing of chamber music movements, with an almost trance-like introspection mid-way as the viola is left unaccompanied on the barest of repeated notes. Tip-toe mystery and fire and energy combined in explosive combustion in the thrilling Scherzo movement, where the delicately etched pedal points give rise to swirling textures. In the finale Gemma Rosefield's sweet, vibrant projection of the cello solos was ravishing, whilst the driving momentum sustained with suspense in the pulsating polyrhythms of this symphonic texture.

Clearly the ensemble of established international artist with a new generation of talented performers offered an exciting and optimistic note on which to conclude this Festival, an excitement reinforced by the local ties of the performers, all of whom laudably donated their services to a Restoration Fund in aid of Burgh House, a local gallery and concert venue. Perhaps more than most years, this year's festival has covered remarkable premières and new repertoire, and under the guidance of its Artistic Director Barry Millington the Hampstead and Highgate Festival has deservedly become one of the landmarks of the pre-Proms London concert scene. One looks forward eagerly to the next Festival and another chance to discover yet more fascinating facets of repertoire and new music.

Copyright © 31 May 2003 Malcolm Miller, London, UK




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