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Sundays Mornings at Blackheath Halls

Emperor Quartet 23 March
Mozart - String Quartet in D Minor K.421
James MacMillan - Quartet No.2 'Why is this night different'
- - - - -
Walton - String Quartet in A Minor

Winners of the Menuhin Prize at the 1994 London International String Quartet Competition (I was there!) the Emperors, with membership unchanged for the decade of their existence, were unwise to start with Mozart, a composer who exposes the slightest weakness mercilessly - especially on a Sunday morning!

But all changed completely with Macmillan's 'Why is this night different', a dramatic piece which confronts extremes and enthralled the (all too small) audience, a satisfying performance which repeated their success with James MacMillan's quartets and clarinet quintet on BIS 1269. Cellist William Schofield explained helpfully, with illustrations by his colleagues, the thematic unity within diversity of this work which took the composer back to melodies he had written in childhood, the title taken from the Jewish Sedah service before Passover.

Likewise the second, and better known, of Walton's two quartets was enthralling, with its energy, malice and tranquility before the 'fierce momentum' of its finale (the two Walton quartets - that of 1922 the larger and more 'modern' - are recommendable on the Black Box CD BBM1035) The two pages inside the back cover of the booklet appear to be reversed, but computer users can access fuller background to these interesting works with useful 'extras' to access on the computer which appear automatically if you insert the disc into the CD drive.).

The programme might have worked better in reverse order, sending the audience home with the comfort of familiar classical music - and a shorter first than second half could be appropriate before Sunday Dinner?

Peter Grahame Woolf

The Emperor String Quartet will be at Wigmore Hall in London on Saturday 3 May - their 10th anniversary concert (somewhat delayed on account of the past year having been a "Baby Boom" for them -: a total of four!)

© Peter Grahame Woolf