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Brighton Connections Summer Season (Susan Elkin reviews)

Brighton Unitarian Church, 14 August 2016

The central plank and final work in this enjoyable hour-long concert, focusing mainly on the work of young composers, was Haydn’s String Quartet in B flat Op 1 No I. One of the earliest of all string quartets, its symmetrical five movement structure consists of two minuets sandwiching an adagio (warmly played by this group) and flanked by a presto at either end. It’s a delightful piece, brought joyfully to life by Roland Roberts, violin, and his colleagues especially during the first minuet when the texture splits into a typically Hadynesque question and answer sequence between the two violins in “conversation” with viola and cello. The rapport was nicely highlighted.

Three works preceded the Haydn. Mozart’s three movement String Divertimento, also in B flat major,  (K137) opens with a first violin lead – Roberts is an unshowy but assertive player – into the sonorous andante, which was thoughtfully explored. There was some fine work in the sparky, colourful finale too.

Two of Dvorak’s Zypressen (Liebeslieder) made an interesting contrast to the classical world of Haydn and Mozart. Originally written as songs for voice and later adapted by the composer these are intensely tuneful. The first opens with the melody – lyrically played by violist Morgan Goff and then passed lovingly round in an attractive performance of an appealing work.

An even greater contrast came with Fuzon (String Quartet in two movements) 2012 by John Hawkins who lives in Lewes and was present in the audience. This was certainly the most challenging, and probably the most satisfying, work in the programme for the players. At one point I could feel Roland Roberts counting (and he has my sympathy). Inspired by Blake’s poetry the first movement depicts the elderly sterile Urizen and the second Fuzon, the embodiment of fire who opposes him. The quartet managed the contrast dynamically and played with real clarity and precision in the busy, rapid second movement particularly during the rhythmic  harmonics which conclude the piece.

The Unitarian Church in New Road has a fine acoustic for chamber music which sounds both crisp and resonant therein. With the doors closed you feel sealed in with the music.  Even the sound of Street Brighton noisily enjoying itself outside on a summer Sunday afternoon seems a long way away.

Originally published by Lark Raviews

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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