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The première launched a French second half of the programme, which also included a curiosity by Saint-Saëns, his Caprices sur les airs Danois et Russes, a pan national endeavour which exploits each instrument of the woodwind trio, clarinet, flute and oboe, within a potpourri freeform that combines folk themes and variations as well as a final fugue. Nicholas Daniel explained that it was composed for an ensemble of Danish musicians for a tour of Russia and dedicated to the Czarina, who apparently never had occasion to hear it. The virtuoso tour de force begins with a flourish, the piano arpeggios answered by bold chords in the woodwind trio. After the flute's introduction of the minor mode Russian theme, the oboe repeats it with magnetic poetic inwardness. The piano's lively accompaniment alters the mood, with a flute variation combined with clarinet and oboe. The flute presents a second theme in the major, then another follows in the oboe echoed at a faster pace by clarinet. A full-blooded fugue ensues which combines different themes are combined. Some of Saint-Saëns' ingenuity and wit could be discerned in the brilliant masterpiece that concluded the concert, Poulenc's Sextet for woodwind and piano.

Many of Poulenc's works, notably those written during World War II, are closely linked to the spirit of the French Resistance. The Sextet, composed in 1932 and revised in 1939, bears the stamp of his early lyrical wit and neo-classical elegance, though the biting Stravinskian metric accents at the end of the fast section of the finale are said to evoke the sound of Nazi jackboots entering Paris. As Nicholas Daniel observed, Poulenc had a sure understanding of wind instruments, composing solo sonatas for each, except the bassoon, which, however, he had planned. The idiomatic felicities were superbly illustrated in their riveting interpretation impelled by energy and maximising the effect of surprise interruptions and discontinuities as well as the ironic neoclassical suavity. The ensemble was impeccable as in the fiery flourish at the start, answered by the bassoon and then the flute's deliciously curvaceous melody. Sarah Burnett played the notable bassoon solo, which introduces the slowed middle section, with deep resonance and bright projection imbuing it with a plangent meditative quality quite fresh and contrary to the instrument's comic stereotype. In the magical slow movement, which owes its neo-classical theme to Mozart's Piano Sonata in C K545, every player shone with beguiling colours from the varied combinations, the oboe and bassoon duet followed by rich, rounded French horn, with a more dramatic middle section poised over the piano's delicate ostinato. The ensemble again brought wit and vitality to the jolly finale which evinces Poulenc's cabaret idiom. Here again the bassoon interrupted proceedings poignantly to launch the more serious and solemn conclusion, the mood of which was reinforced by the evocative blends such as horn and oboe in the final phrase.

The Haffner Ensemble and Min-Jung-Kym conclude their current UK tour in a Wigmore Hall concert on 9 May 2005 that, on the evidence of this recital alone, is certainly not to be missed.

Copyright © 19 March 2005 Malcolm Miller, London UK


Future concerts presented by the Kensington and Chelsea Music Society include Wednesday 27 April 2005, 7.30pm, Madeleine Mitchell, violin, The Bridge Quartet, Paul Watkins, cello and Ivo-Jan Van der Werff, viola, playing Mozart's String Quintet in G minor, the Brahms Sextet and Schubert's Quintet. On Thursday 12 May 2005, the Kungsbacka Piano Trio plays Rachmaninov's Trio Elegiac No 1, Beethoven's Op 70 No 2 and the Mendelssohn Piano Trio. Tickets are 14 pounds (members 7 pounds). All enquiries to Lesley Daimond, 12 Fernshaw Mansions, Fernshaw Road, London SW10 0TD, phone +44 (0)20 7352 0265.




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