Nicholas Yonge Society

International Chamber Music in Lewes

Chiaroscuro Quartet with Matt Hunt and Friends

11th March 2022
Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A major K581
Schubert Octet in F major D803

The NYS audience last Friday was privileged to have a rare chance to enjoy a live performan​ce of two much-loved treasures of the chamber music repertoire, given by an outstanding line-up of musicians all playing instruments of the period. 

This special concert was dedicated to the memory of Janet Lovegrove who died on the 18th August last year.  She was the last surviving Founder Member of the Nicholas Yonge Society which was set up in 1964, and served as Secretary and then Chairman for many years; the Society owes much to her wise guidance and deep knowledge of music.  Janet would surely have been delighted with this grand finale to the 58th season of exceptional concerts, and congratulations and thanks are now due to the Concert Secretary Chris Darwin and the committee for the continuing success of the Society.

First the highly acclaimed Chiaroscuro Quartet, who delighted the NYS audience with their concert on 25th February, was joined by the distinguished clarinettist Matthew Hunt, also making a welcome return to Lewes, for the Mozart Clarinet Quintet.   The mellow toneof  Matt's period clarinet blended beautifully with the warm sound of the quartet playing on gut strings with bows of the period, described by violinist Alina Ibragimova as “Early Romantic”.  True to the meaning of Chiaroscuro (light and dark), the ensemble brought freshness and clarity to this poignant work, with a great range of dynamics, from truly magical pianissimos to full warm-hearted  fortes, and contrasting characters were portrayed sometimes with exuberant humour and sometimes with winning tenderness.

After the interval Matthew Hunt introduced three more friends to make up the Octet, Alec Frank-Gemmill (natural horn), Chris Rawley (bassoon) and Juliane Bruckmann (five-string double bass). He then explained that his clarinet, a modern copy of one dating from the early 1800s, had fewer keys than the modern clarinet and was made of boxwood, which is less dense than the African blackwood used for the modern clarinet. The bassoon, made of Swiss Maple, was a copy of an 1823 instrument made in Paris. The horn was valveless, as appropriate for Schubert’s time, and so could only play some notes by hand-stopping which gives them a very distinctive timbre. 

The Schubert Octet is surely one of the most joyful works of all the chamber music repertoire, though with Schubert of course there are always dramatic moments of extreme tension, sudden shifts between major and minor, passionate outbursts of “sturm und drang”, and vivid contrasts of melancholy darkness and joyous light. Performed by last Friday’s galaxy of eight virtuoso musicians it was indeed a sheer delight, from its tentative Adagio opening bars to its triumphant Molto Allegro ending. During this last movement, the perils of playing on period instruments became clear when the second violin's gut E-string snapped. It is a tribute to Pablo's skill and professionalism that he not only played on, but did so in a way that ensured that many members of the audience failed to notice what had happened.

 This was a concert long to be remembered by a very enthusiastic and appreciative audience.

Review​er: ​Cynthia Eraut

Photograp​her: David James