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Artur Pizarro piano

St Olave, Hart Street - 28 June


Honegger Prelude - Arioso - Fughetta sur le Nom de Bach
Milhaud Sonata No 1 for Piano
Satie Croquis et Agaceries d'un Gros
Auric Trois morceaux pour 'Lac aux Dames'
Tailleferre Deux Pièces pour Piano
Durey Romance sans Paroles
Poulenc Trois Pièces pour Piano


Tokyo String Quartet

Merchant Taylors' Hall


Mozart in D, K 575

Hayashi Lament
Brahms Op 5i/2 in A minor

The City of London Festival is under full swing again; a musical and architectural feast. The City is continually being torn down and rebuilt all around you, dazzling new skyscrapers jostling with ancient listed buildings, retained and lovingly restored as necessary. Surely there is no city in the world so invigorating to walk around on a fine summer evening?

War-damaged St Olave's (Pepys's church) is a splendid place to listen to music, with a lively lunchtime recital series.

Artur Pizarro's delectable hors d'eouvre was mainly of , salon pieces unlikely to have been known to the audience, some of whom walked briskly round to the Merchant Taylors' Hall for the Tokyo Quartet's recital a quarter-hour afterwards...

Samples from each of the 'Les Six' composers (early 20 C, undated in the programme book) demonstrated their differences, with Honegger the odd one out, his music serious and, here, relating closely to Bach's. Milhaud's early sonata is characteristic with his piquant bimodal harmonies, runbustious passages (a little over-pedalled?) interposed with tenderness. Poulenc's pieces showed why he has survived as the most durable of the group, his complex musical personality juxtaposing religiosity with vivacious clowning.

No canonic master works; but a good programme for connoisseurs and "collectors" of unusual repertoire; just what festivals should do. Recorded for BBCR3 transmission next month.

The City's guild halls are revelatory; Merchant Taylors' is sumptuous inside, a huge high, panelled hall with excellent acoustics for the now very international Tokyo String Quartet, according with the Festival's Anglo/Japanese theme this year.

Only violist Kazuhide Isomura is a surviving founder member from 30 years ago; the new leader is Canadian and Clive Greensmith used to lead the RPO cellists. They have melded well and gave one of the most heart-warming accounts I've heard in years of the most endearing of Brahms quartets (Op 51/2). But Hikaru Hayashi (b.1931) deluded himself that composing a chaconne in 2000 would 'discover some new sources of interest in the older form'. All newer developments in string quartet writing seem to have passed him by, and he'd have done better to listen to Britten's 2nd Quartet (1945) before agreeing to have his Lament showcased in London!

For the interval, we took our glasses of wine outdoors to watch a delicious display of contemporary Japanese fashion around the pond in the central courtyard, modelled by students of the Bunka School and the London Colleges of Fashion, accompanied by Taiko drummers! A unique and unforgettable evening.

© Peter Grahame Woolf