Reviewer: Andrew White
An evening of chamber music in Doncaster is still a relative novelty, but the team at Music in the Round are working to make it a regular fixture in the cultural life of this town – and they’ve found a natural home in the Second Space at Cast. Music in the Round are the largest promoters of chamber music outside London, and Doncaster is one of the places lucky enough to host their resident artists known collectively as Ensemble 360.
Tonight’s performance consisted of two pieces with several movements – the first being Schumann’s ‘Piano Quartet in E flat Op. 47’ and the second Schubert’s ‘Octet in F D803’. Schumann’s Piano Quartet is for piano, violin, viola and cello, written in 1842 during his “chamber music” year. Schumann tended to concentrate on one particular style of music at a time and in 1842 (the second year of his marriage to the gifted pianist Clara) he was exclusively writing chamber music. In fact he wrote it with his wife in mind, but in the end dedicated it to his funder Count Mathieu Wielhorsky.
As usual, the players at Ensemble 360 don’t just work on and play; there’s an introduction to the piece outlining some of its history, which makes for an interesting counterpoint to the music ahead. The four movements were performed with the vigour audiences in Doncaster have come to expect from Ensemble 360. Passion and commitment to the music is guaranteed; from contrasts of the second movement – with its elements of Mendelssohn – to the romantic notions of the three with the cello at her most prominent. Throughout is the standout playing of Tim Horton on the piano, whose fingers became a blur on the note-intensive score from Schumann – a joy to watch.
Schubert’s ‘Octet in F’ is for 2 violins, a viola, a cello, a double bass, a horn, a bassoon and a clarinet – no piano on this – and consists of six movements, which together with the number of instruments makes the largest scale of any chamber work ever undertaken by Schubert. It came very late is his short life, just 4 years before his death at the age of 31. It was commissioned by the famous clarinettist Count Ferdinand von Troyer as a piece in the same lines as Beethoven’s ‘Septet Op 20’. Schubert’s differs greatly by adding a second violin, but the linage is there throughout.
This is clearly one of Ensemble 360’s favourite pieces, and the 8 players raise their game to put Schubert’s dark undercurrents and almost tragic sweetness onto another level. These dark tones are particularly felt through the second movement, but the third lightens the mood with a bouncing theme which is shared between several of the instruments. By the time we get to the sixth movement there’s a return to darkness before an impressive finale.
What makes the performance of these players so mesmerising, is the way they engage with the music; they almost climb into it and wear it, it’s so much a part of who they are. The looks between each of them as they move from one piece of music to other are yet a further reason why we should all experience live music of this outstanding quality.
Another fantastic evening of timeless music performed by people truly in love with what they play.
Reviewed on: 11th October 2014