Review: Marlborough College Concert Series

Category: Music, General, Community

On a freezing Sunday afternoon, the attentive and responsive audience who filled the Memorial Hall as part of Marlborough College’s continuing Concert Series, were thrilled by the wonderful Academy of St Martin in the Fields Sextet.

It is a rare treat to hear six musicians of such calibre and their artistry was revealed in an achingly beautiful performance of the sextet from Strauss’s last opera, Capriccio. The uniformity of tone, the lovingly spun floated sound, the conversational interplay between the musicians converged to capture the work’s intimacy. The music spoke with moments of yearning, emotional intensity and high drama. We were an audience given a fascinating and perhaps unexpected insight into the tenderness of Richard Strauss’ music.

Brahms was known to be eternally devoted to Clara Schumann, however, he became involved in an intense relationship with Agathe von Siebold. The name is important as the opening Allegro non troppo of his Sextet No. 2 in G major contains the musical cipher, AGAHE (German musical nomenclature for AGABE). This was an emotionally reflective, sumptuous performance that owed much of its success to the smooth interplay between the musicians structured by the strong inner voices of Fiona Bonds’ beautiful viola playing and Jennifer Godson’s sympathetic support on 2nd violin. The nuanced contrasts in mood were brought out with such sensitivity and the melodic themes were allowed to sing out with relish. The closing Poco allegro, invigorated by many virtuosic descending scale passages passing through the sextet, delivered an infectiously energetic conclusion.

Inspired by Simon Blendis’ characterful leadership, the sextet launched into Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence; a work that cleverly mixes the radiance of Italy with melodies inspired by Russian folk music. The outer movements were played with vigour and unbounded joy, while the lyrical elements in the melodic writing sounded glorious. The players responded with enthusiasm to Tchaikovsky’s genius by giving the fullest expression to the Souvenir’s rhythmic and harmonic unrest. In the bleak stillness of the chords that opened the second movement, we got a brief feeling of melancholy, before the mandolin inspired pizzicato led us back to the radiance of Italy.

This was a celebration of wonderful music by six remarkable artists and their sense of fun and energy had clearly spread to an uplifted audience who responded with warm and sustained applause.

Hector Scott
Head of Strings

Photo credit: Chris Watling

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