The Sacconi String Quartet with David Campbell, clarinet
A new piece by Welsh composer John Metcalf gave the Sacconi Quartet an opportunity to acquaint the audience in the Cowdray Hall with their fine playing before they were joined by virtuoso clarinettist David Campbell for the rest of the concert. A young and exciting Quartet, their playing was lively, incisive and fresh-sounding. Llwybrau Cân (Paths of Song) was a fascinating and wholly original take on tonal composition. It struck an intriguing balance between harmonic and contrapuntal writing, bursting with rich, constantly mutating and intertwining musical lines. There was just a hint of minimalism in some of the part writing but then again the music moved forward far more actively than that. The result was amazingly colourful and mellifluous with wonderfully adroit bowing from all four players though the cellist in particular caught my attention. The five sections of the continuous piece were well defined and it terminated in a satisfying pizzicato flourish.
The Quintet in b minor op. 115 by Brahms is a truly wonderful work almost unique in the way it sometimes incorporates the clarinet into the body of the string quartet and sometimes sets it free to dominate the texture as a solo instrument. The opening movement is a fine example of the first format while the Adagio exemplifies the second. David Campbell could taylor his playing perfectly to either. There was a wonderful moment in the first movement where in the lower register of the clarinet, he interwove his part beautifully with the cello and viola. The second movement of course was sheer poetry, wholly mesmerising in its appeal. The first two movements are both quite long and so the little Andantino came as a refreshing moment of relaxation before the lively finale.
Weber’s Quintet in Bb op.34 takes an entirely different slant on the idea of the clarinet quintet. Here the clarinet is firmly in the spotlight while the quartet mostly takes the part of a small string orchestra in front of which he performs all manner of fantastic instrumental acrobatics. David Campbell gave a masterful performance of both styles of virtuosity, beautifully moderated and sympathetically blended with the other players in the Brahms and seizing the opportunity for brilliant display in Weber’s Quintet. Here, even in the more restrained slow movement, his pianissimo upward runs were a delight. The Sacconi Quartet may have been largely providing an accompaniment for him, especially in the final movement, but the sheer quality of their playing still stood out; refined, perfectly focused and wonderfully delicate.
This was surely one of the best concerts so far even without the marvellous encore: Oblivion by the Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla. It is gratifying that his music is played more and more today. He is ignored by most dictionaries of composers. It was splendid to hear a live performance of music by Weber too. He is a composer whose name appears far too infrequently in concert programmes!
Copyright Alan Cooper
Thanks to Aberdeen Chamber Music Club