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Britten and Ovid

Britten Three Divertimenti for string quartet; Six Metamorphoses after Ovid for solo oboe, Op. 49 (with readings);
Phantasy Quartet in F minor for oboe and string trio Op. 2; String Quartet No. 1 in D, Op. 25

Dante Quartet Krysia Osostowicz, Giles Francis (Violins) Rachel Roberts (Viola) Bernard Gregor-Smith (Cello) with Nicholas Daniel (oboe)
and Simon Goldhill (narrator)

February 1 & 3rd, 2012, Kings Place, London

A fascinating survey of lesser known works by Britten is included in a mini-festival at Kings Place launched last night before a small audience - Krysia Osostowicz, curator of the series, pleaded with those there to support Robin Michael's bid to scale the heights of the three cello suites all in one concert (which he's likened to tackling Kilimanjaro !) and to come and hear the last two quartets on the final evening.

This first concert was bookended by some of Britten's earlier music for string quartet (a great deal of his student work remains unpublished). The quirky Divertimenti (not appreciated in 1936) are to present day taste, and the first Quartet, notable for its composing and performing virtuosity, both were put across with panache and signs of the most thorough preparation.

The Ovid Metamorphoses were given full value in immaculate performances by NicholasDaniel (recipient of Her Majesty’s Medal for Music 2011) and Prof. Simon Goldhill, whose programme note about Ovid was as illuminating as did his narration benefit the short unaccompanied pieces.

Bridge Three Idylls for string quartet; Quartet No. 4
Lachrymae for viola & piano, Op. 48; Notturno for solo piano; movements from Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6

Dante Quartet; Simon Crawford-Phillips piano

On the Friday, we returned to hear a warmly received "connoisseurs'" programme of rare Britten and music by his revered teacher, Frank Bridge, which might have languished unknown but for Britten's championship of his teacher.

Early & late Bridge (his forward looking last quartet) were strongly contrasted, both given effective, well prepared accounts.

Simon C-Ph revived the infrequently played set-piece for the Leeds competition (Britten's only published solo piano piece) and partnered the quartet's leader and violist Rachel Roberts in fine accounts of early and mature Britten; his Lachrymae particularly memorable and moving.

Peter Grahame Woolf