23rd January 2019
|Debussy||Première Rhapsodie for Clarinet and Piano|
|Messiaen||Quartet for the end of time|
A full house heard Matt Hunt, Alina Ibragimova, Louise Hopkins, and Alasdair Beatson, in various combinations, present a varied programme of French music. We began with Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie for Clarinet and Piano, his test (and testing) piece for the Paris Conservatoire. In 7 minutes the clarinet is put through its paces, but so skilfully that the considerable technical demands made on the player are never at the expense of the musical argument. It was made to look and sound deceptively easy, setting a high bar for what was to follow.
Ravel’s Piano Trio begins in apparent simplicity, but one gradually becomes aware of the complexities that make it what it is. Immaculate technique is required; the pianos and pianissimos, as well as the more physical forte passages, need to convince as a unified whole, and we were not disappointed. The ensemble was focussed and tightly organised, and one was aware of how intently the performers were listening to each other throughout.
And as if that were not enough, an outstanding performance of Messiaen’s Quatuor pour le Fin du Temps was to follow.
All the composer’s enthusiasms are on display in this quartet – his love of birdsong, his deep catholic faith, and his fascination with rhythm. One was also particularly aware in this performance of the fact that Messiaen experienced chords synaesthetically – hearing them as colours. The players were equal to the considerable difficulties of this quartet – one was particularly struck by the way in which the slower passages never lost focus or direction. This performance engendered a remarkable stillness in the audience, which says much for the players’ commitment to the piece.
A really special way to end an evening of outstanding music-making.