<< -- 2 -- Keith Bramich MEETING THE CHALLENGE
Not only did we hear two intriguing early quartets, but this event came with
its own, built-in pre-concert talk. No stuffy, classroom siesta-filler, this, but
a lively, semi-dramatised and illustrated presentation that was short, well-paced
and expertly delivered. Miller, with spoken help at one point from
Galina Tanney, succeeded in setting the historical context
of a time in which audiences would crowd around the performers at the end of a
concert, admiring the shock of the new.
But not even Beethoven's genius could completely protect the dramatic power
of his music from the ravages of time.
I sometimes dream of isolating myself completely from modern music for one month,
three months ... as long as it would take, to clean my heart and my mind of all modern
sounds, patterns, thoughts and feelings, to listen only to music from previous
periods, so that I might experience even some small part of that shock
of a late eighteenth century audience on hearing Beethoven for the first time.
Back in the real world, though, there can be occasions when, for example, hearing an
unfamiliar or a new piece can trick one into just such a sensation.
The Miller Piano Quartet at St James's Church, Piccadilly. Photo © 2003 Keith Bramich
All credit then, for its St James performances, to this group,
whose only faults (at least from where I sat) were slight balance and acoustic
problems which under-emphasised and de-clarified the strings, most notably
in the first movement of the C major quartet, Woo 36 No 3.
If the delicious weaving of themes amongst the instruments and the notably
beautiful solos played by Galina Tanney and Grace Chen in the central F major
Adagio con espressione seemed familiar,
it was because Beethoven re-used the movement, with the addition of a
D minor section, in his Sonata Op 2 No 3.
Copyright © 9 September 2003
Keith Bramich, Gloucestershire, UK