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Holst,Mendelssohn & Chausson

Imogen Holst (1907-84) String Quintet
Felix Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor Op. 66
Ernest Chausson: Concert in D Op. 21 for violin piano and string quartet

Chloë Hanslip (violin)
Ian Brown (piano)
Sacconi String Quartet
Christoph Richter (cello)

Wigmore Hall, 5 Oct 2006


IMS Prussia Cove was founded by Sandor Vegh in 1972 and was developed along the lines of the Rudolph Serkin's Marlboro Music. Its bi-annual courses offer outstanding teaching in a setting of unspoilt natural beauty where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Cornish cliffs. Vegh's original idea of a professor playing with his students to explore the rich variety of creative possibilities which chamber music offers, has been pursued by its current director, Steven Isserlis. The seminar is followed by a week-long tour, of which this concert was a typical example.

This was for us a frustrating evening, although the large audience, including Friends of Prussia Cove, was well satisfied. None of the participants had the opportunity to display their skills as a whole. The prizewinning Sacconi Quartet was not heard on its own.

Unexpectedly, Imogen Holst's quintet was for us the most rewarding item. Daughter of Gustav Holst, whose music she continued to support and promote for the rest of her life, she was a key figure at Britten's Aldeburgh Festivals. A centenary biography is to be published next year. The quintet (with two cellos) is a well constructed shortish piece in three movements, and would sit comfortably in recitals with the Schubert quintet.


I looked forward to a hearing of the Mendelssohn No. 2, the less popular of his Piano Trios, but (having attended a York Gate seminar explorating of Clementi and Beethoven on RAM's collection of early pianos that afternoon) Ian Brown sounded intolerably heavy handed on the Steinway grand; both works which to present day taste have far too many notes... The Mendelssohn would have sounded better on a lighter instrument and with gut strings for Hanslip & Richter, but that is an outsider's opinion.


I was eager to hear Chloë Hanslip, following receipt of her marvellous CD of the John Adams violin concerto (Naxos), but this chamber concert did not find her at her best. Everything was played from music, including the concerto-like solo of the awkward and indulgent Chausson Concert, an overblown work which I could only bear to hear once in a decade (admittedly, it works better live than on recordings). But full marks to Prussia Cove for giving us (and its students) something different to tackle.

© Peter Grahame Woolf