ENSEMBLE 360           DONCASTER  CAST        NOVEMBER 13th 2021


“This is a strange programme,” said pianist Tim, “I like it.” Well, when a magnificent oboe sonata is in the mix with an intriguing violin sonata and a glorious cello sonata, all masterfully and passionately played by entrancing musicians, what’s not to like? – especially when those worthy musicians richly ice the pre-Christmas cake by coming together in delicious, unusual combination for a stunning finale quartet.

In musical conversation with Tim Horton at piano, Adrian Wilson’s soaring, singing oboe played Camille Saint-Saens’ Sonata in D Op 166 (with his help). As a child prodigy, Saint-Saens could play all Beethoven’s sonatas by heart at the age of ten; he composed his oboe sonata, though, along with two more works for wind, right at the end of his life, in his mid-eighties, keen to provide works for instruments that deserve more than they ever get. Composed in 1921, this rich piece is pervaded by gentle, feather-light delicacy and wistful nostalgia as well as allowing the magnificent oboe to trill and run with the piano and further stir the soul by soaring smart and proud.

The Czech composer Janáček began his sonata for violin and piano during WWI, its final version coming in 1922. “…the gleam of sharp steel… was clanging in my troubled mind,” he said. Claudia Ajmone-Marsane swayed and played wonderfully through the range of technical, rhythmic and emotional challenges as the music travels to and fro through a dramatic turbulence of sudden outbursts and troubled emotions to more tranquil, melancholic moments. Janáček, we were told, was a big fan of transcribing into musical notation, the dynamics, intonations and textures of human speech patterns, showing how mood and meaning are conveyed without any need for actual words. Perhaps, as well as reflecting the sudden surprises and alarms of troubled times, the music might make you wonder if various of his friends had frequent coughs, sneezes and hoarse throats! A real treat of an interesting piece.

Introducing Brahms cello sonata No2 in F Op 99, pianist Tim claims he loves its every note, the piece’s masterly construction working perfectly with the emotional journey in an ideal partnering of head and heart. (He also pointed out the similarity of its opening notes to a certain Mr Bernstein’s composition that Maria and Tony sing – Tonight). As ever, red-shoed cellist Gemma Rosefield poured her heart as well as her considerable musical expertise into the warm melody, pizzicato pluckings, brooding depths and fiery heights, before a thrilling finale brought together the exquisite, yet unusual combination of piano, oboe, violin and cello in Bohuslav Martinů’s highly involving quartet of 1947, its dramatic musical conversations between the four instruments full of urgent weavings, melodic windings and rhythmic energy. Exciting and colourful, the piece was dedicated to music-lover Leopold Mannes, who also invented Kodachrome colour film. Like the first rolls of film, it’s a great shame the quartet wasn’t longer.

Another wonderful, friendly, in-the-round evening of top-class music, played by top-class music who are in love with playing it. Fabulous.

Eileen Caiger Gray