October 31 2019
Review: William Ruff
A silver anniversary celebrated with compelling music-making
There can’t be many occasions when bricks and mortar get a round of applause – but Thursday’s Lakeside concert marked the 25th anniversary of the Djanogly Recital Hall. And the audience were only too pleased to celebrate not only the Hall’s qualities as a fine musical instrument in its own right but also as a venue that continues to attract the world’s top musicians, encouraging the very best in music-making and intelligent listening.
The anniversary programme was a sort of renewed mission-statement: key works from the classical repertoire; intensely beautiful performances from an international, award-winning ensemble; a new commission especially for the occasion – and a showcase for the university’s own talented musicians.
These were the University Chamber Choir who performed the world premiere of Howard Skempton’s Poems of Love and War, unaccompanied settings of Viking poems conducted by Calum Fraser. The settings (and performances) were as sharply etched as Viking jewellery: lyrical, intense, concise, the one-syllable-per-note style adding to the sense of directness, of nothing being wasted. Both choir and conductor were clearly deeply inside the idiom, consistently precise and intelligently attentive to the poems’ words.
The evening started with the Sacconi Quartet playing Beethoven’s Quartetto Serioso, Op.95, whose conciseness and intensity were keynotes of the whole evening. Its opening movement must be one of the composer’s shortest but in the Sacconis’ hands it gave the impression of dissolving dimensions and of limitless power.
In Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet they were joined by clarinettist Jack McNeill whose rapport with his colleagues was obvious throughout. At the centre of their performance of this expansive, nostalgic, autumnal work was the magnificent Adagio at whose heart arises a series of florid clarinet arabesques that spiral and swoop over rustling strings. This was just one highlight in a compelling account of a piece whose ebb and flow of expressive tension was made to seem entirely natural and spontaneous.
All in all this was a celebration which did justice to the occasion. Here’s to the next 25 years of music-making at one of the UK’s top chamber music venues.
Sacconi Quartet: Ben Hancox and Hannah Dawson (violins), Robin Ashwell (viola), Cara Berridge (cello)
Jack McNeill (clarinet)
University of Nottingham Chamber Choir, conducted by Calum Fraser