Concert Review

MAGGINI QUARTET with PETER DONOHOE (Boesch, Brahms and Tchaikowsky) Wigmore Hall, 28 October 1999

This was an exemplary programme, Tchaikowsky's 1st Quartet (the one with the deservedly popular Andante cantabile) and the Brahms piano quintet framing a notable world premiere, the 2nd Quartet by the Swiss composer, Christine Boesch. Although she treats the instruments conventionally without latter-day gimmicks, the work is original in its spare textures and arresting changes of mood. On this showing, she rejects continuous vibrato and likes to focus on one or two instruments at a time. Derived from the image of Christ and the Money Changers, Boesch's second quartet is not unrelated to present day concerns, and to current thoughts about her native country (she studied in Geneva, Zurich and Manhattan, and now lives in London). The movements are headed incisive; with hedonism; furioso and misterioso. Hard thrusting qualities of the first movement and the scherzo are contrasted with a yearning slow movement and a final prayer, which draws upon plainchant. A personal style emerges - definitely a composer to watch.

The Magginis, one of UK's best quartets, gave an immaculate account of the charming Tchaikowsky quartet, the first of his works to gain wide recognition. The two Brahms quintets for strings plus another instrument are amongst those inexhaustible works of which one never tires; has anyone thought to programme them together? I think you would have to take the clarinet quintet first; nothing can come after the piano quintet, a good performance of which is bound to send the audience home exhilarated, as we were on this occasion. The account by Donohoe and the Magginis of the Brahms Piano Quintet (which had such a hard gestation before arriving at its final form) was magisterial, eclipsing a bad experience of an ill-prepared performance of it at Blackheath only a few days before. Peter Donohoe was in close accord with his string partners, and a recording of their interpretation would be welcome.

At Naxos's bargain price, they can be enjoyed together in Elgar (Piano Quintet with String Quartet - NAXOS 8 553737) - strongly recommended.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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