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Ensemble

Meeting the challenge

KEITH BRAMICH listens to early Beethoven
from the Miller Piano Quartet

 

The lunchtime concert is a rather special beast. Often free and informal, it attracts punters who maybe wouldn't risk (in either temporal or financial terms) a full evening do, and the expected length of 'less than an hour' provides interesting programming challenges for the performer.

For the Miller Piano Quartet there were several other challenges at St James's Church, Piccadilly, London, on 6 August 2003 at 1.10pm. Firstly the overbearing heat of the ozone-hole-damaged London summer -- that curious heatwave enjoyed by the Brits for a few weeks in August -- provided difficult conditions for any concert involving temperamental stringed instruments and the even more fragile human beings who play them.

Then, at least for audience members saturated with 'mainstream' classical music, there was the Beethoven challenge. In many ways, from a twenty-first century perspective, Beethoven can be seen as occupying a place at the stable centre of an exploding galaxy of musical styles and genres so varied and interesting that poor old LVB can seem rather staid and boring in comparison, especially since he's been in the mainstream musical limelight for so long, and because so much more recent music has built on not only his achievements and innovations, but also those of his predecessors.

St James's Church, Piccadilly. Inside, a quiet oasis; outside, Union Jack teashirts on sale amidst the bustle of Central London. Photo © 2003 Keith Bramich
St James's Church, Piccadilly. Inside, a quiet oasis; outside, Union Jack teashirts on sale amidst the bustle of Central London. Photo © 2003 Keith Bramich

So it's very gratifying, then, to report success on all these fronts for Malcolm Miller and his team ... success in attracting and keeping a large audience which was interested enough to remain for the full hour-long sauna, success, despite the heat, in keeping in tune, and, most importantly, success in meeting the Beethoven challenge with fresh and lively performances of lesser-known works from the teenage Beethoven which, in Miller's words, show 'early signs of extraordinary genius'.

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Copyright © 9 September 2003 Keith Bramich, Gloucestershire, UK

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