Concert Reviews Archive

The following reviews, by Ian Stuart-Hunter, are from our 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 concert seasons.

More recent reviews are available here.

Fejes String Quartet - 17 March 2014

Fejes String Quartet

For their final concert for this season in St John’s Kirk, Perth, Perth Chamber Music had the fascinating and convincing Fejes String Quartet.

Haydn’s Quartet in G Major Op.64 No.4 is one of his more rarely heard, but the Fejes fully took part in Haydn’s companionable humour and showed it as a masterpiece. A sprightly Minuetto and a finely floated variation slow movement preceeded their Finale, full of verve and excitement.

They then played three of Glazunov’s Novelettes: No.1 in an exciting and vivid Spanish style. No.3 in modo antico had elements of Russian chant. The Fejes Quartet capped this with vertiginous swing of a waltz in No.4, which gave leader Tamas Fejes a fine opportunity for brilliance.

Best in an outstanding programme was Mendelssohn’s Quartet in f minor Op.80. Frightened, saddened and depressed by the death of his sister, this is often one dimensionally played as a horror story. The Fejes had this frenzy but also a balancing warmth and affection. This came over most wonderfully in the third movement: it was fine and noble with sustained consoling warmth and depth of feeling: a beautiful requiem for a sister who had literally always been there for him.

To the hugely appreciative applause from a well filled St John’s Kirk, they turned to a more usual Mendelssohn for an encore: the light-footed charm of the Scherzo from his Op.81.

McKenzie Sawers Duo - 18 February 2014

McKenzie Sawers Duo

It was another fascinating evening with Perth Chamber Music in St John’s Kirk. Their guests were the Edinburgh-based saxophone and piano duo of Sue McKenzie and Ingrid Sawers.

In the first half they had the French world of the saxophone. They began with two pieces from Bizet’s incidental music for L’Arlésienne: first a plaintive, gentle piece using character music associated with the role of the Innocent, then a vivaciously played Menuet. D’Indy’s Choral varié, as fascinatingly told, written for an American heiress showed Sue McKenzie’s fluent and beautiful tone in an impressive piece. Robert Planel’s Prélude et Saltarelle came next came next. At first evocative of the 1920s in sinuous and sultry legato lines, then in the dance extravert with a sense of fun. After that came Paul Bonneau’s Suite: an Improvisation by turns lyrical and impish, then a Demon’s Dance, more goblinish with its bass rumblings from Ingrid Sawers always colourful piano playing, followed by the high register lament at first coolly French then more impassioned and finally Mischief – glittering and brilliant. The half finished with two pieces from Ibert’s Histoires: first the tuneful, well-known Little White Donkey and then the wild, drinking song Under the Table.

Changing from an alto to a soprano saxophone, and incidentally sitting down, the second half was an enjoyable selection of contemporary music. Ingrid Sawers started with a jazz piano introduction to Nikki Iles Alma Venus, the sax entering in lyrical and plaintive mode before turning faster and more rhythmic, before a return to the opening ideas. The major piece of the evening came next: Gabriel Jackson’s The Coral Sea. Lasting some 17 minutes it was in three continuous sections: Prelude evocative and calmly reflective with possible links to keening as this is a memorial piece. The much longer Voyage – rhapsodic and nostalgic and Litany, a joyous celebration, brilliantly played. The Duo happily confessed that this piece ‘really suits us’. Solo pieces next: first Sue McKenzie in a transcription of a Bob Mintzer solo. The work of an enthusiast with gestures wedded to variations. Then Ingrid Sawers in Michael Finnissy’s reworking of Gershwin’s A Foggy Day in London Town, which, I thought, charmlessly enmeshed and imprisoned the original. A high-octane piece, Graham Fitkin’s Gate, brought the concert to a lively, energetic and well appreciated end. Arising from a piano trill, it had a busy piano part at first with held sax notes. It was high speed with much incident and overall a sunny piece much applauded by the St John’s audience.

Wu String Quartet - 15 January 2014

Wu String Quartet

Continuing their run of outstanding concerts Perth Chamber Music opened the new year with the up and coming Wu String Quartet, which started good and got better and better.

They began with one of Haydn’s most intense and dramatic quartets: the Quartet in d minor Op.76 No.2. The Wu Quartet gave a finely sprung reading with excellent definition of the individual parts. Poise and a smile were frequent characteristics in the serene good tempered innocence of the slow movement, where the playing of the Leader Qian Wu was a delight in the florid variations. They were excellent at the thrust of the severely canonical nicknamed Witch’s Minuet, the dancing lightness, or more vigorous as required, of the Trio formed a good contrast. The quartet’s Finale enjoyed the brilliance of one of Haydn’s London Symphonies, its whirling and playfulness miracles of the Wu Quartet’s timing and humour.

The Wu Quartet was even better in Mendelssohn’s impassioned, elegant and energetic Quartet. The first movement had excitement and brilliance and a contrasting warm sotto voce tone for the second theme. Poise was again there for their beautiful lilt to the Minuet with its Romantic leanings. The tantalizing circling of the Trio and its reappearance as a fine evoi were equally well done. Starting with noticeably beautiful tone, they took espressivo from the tempo of the third movement and made the most of it. A more obvious rejoicing informed their reading of Mendelssohn’s lively Finale: with its elegant second theme and inventive colour, themes flashed between players in the development. Using a wide dynamic they reached a peak of excitement in the work’s final bars.

The Wu Quartet moved from the excellent to the magnificent in their performance of Dvorak’s Quartet in G Major Op.106. The finely subtle opening soon surged with superb vigour. That this piece must mean a lot to the players came over clearly in their playing. It must be a particular favourite of their second violin Edward Brenton as he continued the second theme with sonorous tone and also got to launch a development of clarity and refined power. Bows really did dig deep in the emotion of the second movement. Leader Qian Wu played with lyrical beauty and a shining lyricism before the powerful unison climax of great strength, feeling and impact. They played the Scherzo with a verve and dance-like vigour, the viola and violins’ duetting an entrancing sound. The Finale began poignantly before whirling off into Dvorak’s seemingly spontaneous sounding rondo. A slower section replete with affecting nostalgia as a first movement theme was recalled, showed the Wu Quartet’s ability to put over emotion before the final exhilarating rush. Equally enthusiastic was the large audience which had turned out on a cold, rainy night to hear the radiance of the Wu Quartet.

Scottish Reed Trio - 4 December 2013

Scottish Reed Trio

Perth Chamber Music’s Christmas Concert in St John’s Kirk, Perth, was an affair of brilliant colour and delightful tunes stylishly and impeccably delivered by the Scottish Reed Trio.

Opening with movements from Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music the oboe, clarinet and bassoon trio caught the acoustic of the historic kirk with clarity and character. The high points were their stylish playing of French music: Tomasi’s Concert Champêtre and Milhaud’s Suite d’après Corrette, and Gordon Jacob’s Trio.

Most enjoyable was the Mozart Divertimento: inimitably Mozart and played with grace and charm. Cecilia McDowall’s Five Century Dances of 2005 went from the Baroque in Allemande to the Rock of Last Dance.

Part Two opened with Elgar’s Chanson de Matin where the reed instruments gave a nice pastoral feel. The great Beethoven was also at this party, but in a fun mood with his Variations on Mozart’s Là ci darem la mano.

Gordon Jacob’s Trio was a fine piece, brilliantly written to fully exploit the instruments. It moved from the wistful and lyrical, to the Scherzo, jolly and full of colour, and a Finale vivid in colour with a warming of Music Hall.

A built-in encore, the final piece was Hugo de Groote’s South American Souvenir, a sunny refrain with perfectly timed, comical episodes. This stylish and brilliant concert from the Scottish Reed Trio gave huge enjoyment to the large audience who responded avidly.

Jennifer Pike and Tom Poster - 6 November 2013

Jennifer Pike and Tom Poster

One of the greatest musical successes for Perth Chamber Music brought their largest audience to date. It was the brilliant recital in St John’s Kirk, Perth given by violinist Jennifer Pike and pianist Tom Poster. Prizewinners both, she a BBC Young Musician of the Year and the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition, he the Scottish International Piano Competition, they performed a wide range magnificently.

From the opening of Mozart’s Sonata in G, K301 it was evident that here was a quite special partnership: they were warmly sympathetic, yet equally alive to Mozart’s vivacity. The second movement was filled with a vocal joy, the central sicilienne a particular delight.

Next came the first of Dvorak’s pieces, the Nocturne Op.40. Tom Poster’s brief introduction, most evocatively set the scene. Jennifer Pike then entered with a seemingly effortlessly beautiful legato line. This intensified, moving with more urgency in the central portion, before closing in higher register with a return to the unruffled calm of the start. Not a major piece, perhaps, but wonderfully done.

Suk’s Four Pieces Op.17 were equally revelatory. Forming variations each piece had its own atmosphere: emotional and with a powerful narrative element in the first, dramatic and virtuoso in the second, bringing spontaneous applause. Un poco triste, the third, of a perfumed though no less real melancholy, with touches of madness in its central part, and the virtuoso with its humorous folk dance and staccato running line in the final Burlesca.

Dvorak’s miniatures, the Four Romantic Pieces Op.75 followed the interval. Moving from deliberately attractive lyricism, through the legendary and heroic, to the fluent inimitably Dvorak melody of the third, the final piece was Dvorak over-milking the sentimental. But what feeling came over from the two artists!

A Jennifer Pike speciality is Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. Though originally, as she pointed out, a piece for violin and piano, even with Tom Poster’s fine pianism it did not have the sustaining power of the orchestra. Expansive and relaxed in the solo passages, producing beautiful tone from her fine violin, these were the most treasurable parts, especially the final ascent.

The official concert ended with Miklos Rozsa’s Variations on a Hungarian Peasant Song. As Jennifer herself said “they become steadily more virtuosic and exciting”. Totally true! It was a masterclass in bowing, tone production and technique – not to mention hugely enjoyable.

Both from the sheer enjoyment of playing and the enthusiastic reception of the large audience, the pair gave two encores: the deeply personal and warmly played Romance No.1 by Clara Schumann and, with charm and sparkle in its outer sections, elegance in its inner tune, Kreisler’s Tambourin chinois.

St. Petersburg String Quartet - 1 October 2013

St. Petersburg String Quartet

Perth Chamber Music began their season in international style with a visit from the St Petersburg String Quartet. This world-famed group, winners of various competitions from Australia to Italy, were playing their strong suit of melodious Russian Quartets.

They started with Borodin’s Quartet No.2 in D Major, a veritable quarry of melodies. From their lyrically flexible playing of the opening notes the tunes were Happily recalled by the large audience in St John’s Kirk. Moving into the Allegro the viola and the leading violin had notable duet passages. The cello could have been less reticent, given the favoured rôle Borodin allots it. Their approach to the Scherzo was more gentle than usual, but buoyant with good interplay. They found new colours for the development and the pizzicato ending came over magically. Finding his voice the cello launched the famous Nocturne with eloquence. The viola’s sul ponticello playing was an effective colour as the piece faded to its end. The final movement had a good mysterious start before its joyous continuation. In this movement the St Petersburg Quartet first fully showed what a good quartet they are.

The Quartet enjoyably warmed up the abrasiveness of Prokofiev in his Quartet No.2 “on Kabardinian themes”. They gave the opening Allegro sostenuto a vigorous, open air feeling. The Adagio was an impassioned nocturne style movement with a quicker, more amusing centre with clever use of bowing effects before Leader Alla Aranovskaya’s finely lyrical return to the opening material. The St Petersburg Quartet brought out Prokofiev’s droll side in the march-like Allegro, with comical dance episodes and unusual string effects. Their playing gave true stature to this movement.

The St Petersburg Quartet were at their very best in Tchaikovsky’s Quartet No.1 in D Major. Their opening emphasized the chant aspect and they reserved considerable warmth for the glorious second theme. Exciting at the climax, the Leader’s decoration of the second theme was a perfect filigree. They powered rhythmically into the vertiginous coda. Their playing of the famous Andante cantabile had an easeful naturalness which gave full value to its emotion, but without mawkishness. For the section with mute, Alla Aronovskaya’s tone was particularly alluring. The Scherzo had good rhythmic élan, but was not abrasive and they were good at the capped tension of the Trio. Quick, but not forcing, they captured the coursing joy of the Finale. A nice touch was the ‘slow motion’ before this very fine quartet whirled to its close.

Recalled several times by the large and enthusiastic audience they gave an entrancing performance of the Waltz from Britten’s Three Divertimenti, fey and wistful, portamenti delicately touched in and with lightly touched harmonics to finish. A super end to a concert which had got better and better as it went on.

The Schubert Ensemble - 19 March 2013

The Schubert Ensemble

Perth Chamber Music brought their season to a close with a concert in St John’s Kirk, Perth by the Schubert Ensemble.

Mozart’s Piano Quartet No.1 in g minor K468 opened with drama and tension, before turning to a fine lyricism. Their fire in the closing section confirmed their reputation over 30 years in the making. The slow movement showed warmth and outstanding musical blend. The final Rondo was good humour personified.

Edward Rushton’s Piano Removal 2 is founded on Robert Louis Stevenson wanting music in his South Seas home and having his piano shipped there from Edinburgh. The raucous start breaks off for misty textures and high string pizzicato and high piano notes, dreaming of the piano in Edinburgh. The work ends more virtuoso and less raucous, as the family celebrates now with the piano. The piece faded with held notes to receive an enthusiastic reception.

The Schubert Ensemble gave Brahms Piano Quartet No.2 in A Major a powerfully relaxed first movement. Each strand of Brahms’ musical thought was placed to perfection. Their slow movement was by turns richly contemplative and darkly mysterious, with that special sensitivity of a fine ensemble. In the middle of the gentle Scherzo, the swagger of the Hungarian Trio soon turned to charm. The Finale was an extended Hungarian Dance with plenty of brilliance, before the exciting drive to the close.

After this, as a calming encore the Schubert Ensemble played Dvorak’s Songs My Mother Taught Me. It was nostalgically tuneful and with sentiment that rang true.

The Gildas Quartet - 22 February 2013

The Gildas Quartet

The Gildas String Quartet, Award Winners for the John Tunnell Trust, were Perth Chamber Music’s guests for Friday night’s concert in St John’s Kirk, Perth. They are already a quality string quartet of outstanding musical values and capability.

Unusually for Haydn’s Quartets, that in C Major Op.54 No.2 has the major role for the First Violin. This was winningly played by leader Christopher Jones. The Gildas Quartet had the finest appreciation of Haydn style, not least his sense of fun. The also played with warmth and depth in the operatic slow movement and gave the Menuetto a characterful rustic stamp.

Britten’s Quartet No.1 showed the Gildas Quartet in the distinctively different sound world of this composer. They had exciting precision and, where required, vehemence. Balanced by the warmth and feeling they found this in the Andante calmo. The big chords in the Finale sounded spacious and impressive in the St John’s acoustic.

Brahms’ Quartet No.2 had nicely airy textures especially in the lilting second theme. The development, though, was intensely argued. The Andante moderato had an easy walking pace, not overloading its lyricism. The Quasi minuetto third movement had detail and a lightness, especially in the Trio. The Finale had purpose with, again a well-argued development.

To enthusiastic applause the Gildas Quartet played an encore: the Waltz from Britten’s Three Divertimenti, played with lightness and a wide-eyed affection.

Jessica Beeston and Andrew Johnston - 15 January 2013

Jessica Beeston and Andrew Johnston

Perth Chamber Music’s first concert of the New Year showcased the viola. The Lothians Duo, Jessica Beeston, on a beautifully rich-toned viola, and Andrew Johnston, piano, brought the best possible advocacy to each of the works.

They started entertainingly with Hummel’s Fantasie op.94. As Hummel intended, it delighted the appreciative audience in St John’s Kirk, Perth on Tuesday.

In Brahms’ Sonata No.2 in E Flat Op.120 No.2, Jessica Beeston had a wonderful way with the tunes and Andrew Johnston had power with subtlety as a fine Brahms player. Throughout they showed a fine give and take, especially in the vigorous and joyous conclusion.

Real finds were the two Watson Forbes arrangements of Scots songs: firstly the lyrical The Lea Rig then the perkier Whaur Gadie Rins. The Duo put over these versions with enlivening character.

A highpoint was Schumann’s Märchenbilder. By turns mysterious and haunting, chivalrous and heroic, passionate and lyrical, Jessica Beeston’s viola was perfect for the calmly beautiful envoi.

Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata was an intense and spirited work in the hands of the Lothians Duo. Jessica Beeston’s fiery solo and Andrew Johnston’s powerful piano part brought passion to the first movement. The brief scherzo used intriguing sounds, and the slow start to the Finale became a rhapsodic Allegro, closing by recalling the impressive wildness of the opening.

The audience in St John’s Kirk applauded at length this wide ranging and finely presented concert.

Aisling Agnew and Matthew McAllister - 4 December 2012

Aisling Agnew and Matthew McAllister

The wind was cold and the streets icy, but the music provided by flute and guitar duo of Aisling Agnew and Matthew McAllister provided a glowingly friendly warmth.

Their Christmas concert in St John’s Kirk for Perth Chamber Music was not overtly Christmassy, but most definitely was music of good cheer. From the joyously baroque to the composed-this-year, everything from both instrumentalists was impeccably played and played to the pleasure of the audience.

They began with a sonata da chiesa in G by Locatelli. Using her ebony flute it began with an airy pastorale, before the dance-like second movement. A plangent aria, the tone of the flute carried beautifully by the fine acoustic of S John’s, was rounded off by a gracefully vivacious allegro. Taking over all of the continuo duties, Matthew McAllister’s nimble playing excelled in its fine sound and presence. It was the Italian baroque at its most pleasing.

Up to date with the next two pieces: Sean O’Riada’s Ag Chroist an Siol was soulfully slow with the intimacy and feeling of folksong, then Alan Thomas’ Sivi Grivi, with scordatura from the guitar, had an impressive start with low flute and high guitar leading to the start of duende passion, plus some Bartok-like spice.

A totally different style totally mastered was the set of virtuoso variations on tunes from Carmen. The softest played guitar introduction led to a smokey flute version of the fate theme, surrounded by incredible tremolandi from the guitar. Then it was through the well known tunes with a superabundance of notes played at high velocity. Miracles of articulation made it all great fun.

Baroque too, but with a lofty seriousness, was J.S.Bach’s Sonata in e minor, starting with serene tunefulness before the passepied dance of the second movement. The refined guitar before the flute stole in on a sustained note began a third movement of melodic beauty, before the final moto perpetuo. Throughout Bach demanded the utmost in length of phrasing and breath control. How the flautist manages not to deflate or implode must be due to talent and application!

Veronique Vella wrote Bidla (Change) for the duo and they excelled in the pleasingly contrasted sections of this audience friendly piece. Finally came three well contrasted tangos by Astor Piazzolla. First the clever interplay of the introduction and captivatingly capricious playing in Bordel 1900. Rarely does Piazzolla sound as happy as this! Then the moody introduction on alto flute in the pensive yet luscious Tango Oblivion. Lastly Libertango with its percussive start and appropriately free high sounding flute – with flutter- and doubletonguing before its surprising end.

Their encore was the most delightful, feel-good piece: Chris Stout’s Hamnataing. Its Scottish lilt was so carefree and happy, you could not but go away smiling.

Kungsbacka Piano Trio - 7 November 2012

Kungsbacka Piano Trio

For their second concert of the season Perth Chamber Music had engaged the well-known Kungsbacka Piano Trio.

The concert in St John’s Kirk, Perth on Wednesday evening began with a stylish performance of Haydn’s Trio in F sharp. In this relatively serious minor key work the outer movements had both fantasy and sensitivity. A highlight was the glowing Adagio arranged from his Symphony No.102.

With its special place in Beethoven’s Trio in D, Op.70 No.1, the cello of Johannes Rostamo gave an immediate lyrical response to the vigorous start. Nicknamed Ghost for the slow movement, Kungsbacka Piano Trio gave this an electrifyingly spooky reading. Then a total change for the ebullient energy of the Finale, which the Kungsbacka Piano Trio also fully put over to their appreciative audience.

In very different mood was Rachmaninov’s Trio élégiaque Op.9. All three artists played with a deep commitment adding strength and sensitivity, now rightly tempestuous, now bringing out Rachmaninov’s lyricism. Rachmaninov cast the second movement as a theme and variations, alternating piano and trio scoring, slow and fast. In the folk inspired theme Simon Crawford-Phillips brought out its Russian warmth. Violinist Malin Broman and Johannes Rostamo were particularly fine in their duet passages. In the third movement Simon Crawford-Phillips, as elsewhere, was superb in the demanding piano part, more often of the weight of a concerto. Throughout the evening the Kungsbacka Piano Trio was outstanding in the unanimity of emotional commitment and beautifully produced, fine sound.

Brodsky Quartet - 16 October 2012

Brodsky Quartet

The Brodsky String Quartet’s concert on Tuesday was simply the best sounding quartet concert heard in Perth for many years.

This was also Perth Chamber Music’s first concert in the newly refurbished venue of the historic St John’s Kirk in the centre of Perth. The acoustic was musically superb and the setting, with lighting focusing attention on the players, aided the intense listening involvement Perth audiences often show.

From the energy, wit and sparkle that the Brodsky’s put into Wolf’s Italian Serenade it was clear that they Perth audience were in for a really special concert. From this gem of humour, the Quartet moved to Puccini’s Chrysanthemums, a flower associated in Italy with funerals. This was a memorial piece of the most profound melancholy, which conveyed, with all the depth of feeling that he showed in his operas, a mood of total loss and sadness.

This and the next work, Giuseppe Verdi’s only Quartet were engagingly introduced by the group’s first violin Daniel Rowland. This was mature, post-Aida Verdi at the height of his powers, showing that he really knew how to write a good string quartet. The Brodsky’s manner changed to give the apt idea of more design and more purpose. The first movement’s grand chords came off with a warmth and clarity impressive in St John’s. They produced a true luxury sound in the grace and charm of the moderate dance which was the second movement. The prestissimo third movement was a whirlwind of energy and precision, surrounding the surprise of the Trio with the cello uninhibitedly singing a waltz to pizzicato accompaniment. With as much art and pleasure as the Fugue at the end of his final opera Falstaff came this one to finish his Quartet.

After the Interval came Schubert’s Quartet Movement the intense drama and lyrical response of the fine Brodsky playing made one regret even more that this is all, apart from a fragment of Andante, that remains of this work.

Then it was on to the real rarity: Korngold’s Quartet No.2. The Brodsky Quartet again captured perfectly this luxuriant idiom and rich sound world. They also brought out the constructive ability he showed and the tenderness of the first movement’s slow envoi. Wit was there in full measure for the cheeky refrain of the Intermezzo. After the intriguing sound of harmonics and isolated cello notes, the cello then took up the emotional melody against its rich harmonic background for the vivid slow movement. How do you finish this work? A string fanfare then a wickedly over-the-top waltz ending in a mad coda.

Called back repeatedly the Brodsky’s ended the evening with something unique to themselves and in fact a world première: arranged by the group’s viola player, Paul Cassidy, and with him at one point whistling, the whole quartet gave their own, amplified and filled out version of Paganini’s virtuoso 24th Caprice.

Nemtsov Duo - 15 March 2012

Nemtsov Duo

Perth Chamber Music crowned their last concert of this season with a recital by the Nemtsov Duo of cello and piano. From the dramatic first note of Beethoven’s Cello Sonata Op.5 No.2 it was apparent that the brother and sister became the music such was their commitment. Their’s was intense, yet warm-hearted, music making, very vocally inspired. The dancing theme of the first movement really smiled and the end had all the heroic energy one could wish. The final Rondo had playing of brilliance and dazzling good humour. The two delighted in Beethoven’s bravura writing.

“Every note is genius and it is very romantic”, said Mikhail Nemtsov introducing Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata. And he and his sister went on to prove this in the warmth of the opening and a later lyrical passage of great beauty. They were equally brilliant in the sarcastic Scherzo and a sonic delight in the glissandi of the Trio. In the third movement they absolutely conveyed the weight of sorrow on Shostakovich’s shoulders, before shrugging this off in the sharply delineated humour of the final Allegro.

Their rapport with both audience and music came through in Chopin’s Cello Sonata. In the second theme the sheer sound of their playing was enthralling. Swagger and power were there in the Scherzo, yet also delicacy and feeling, especially in their elated playing of the Trio. Though short in bars, their lyrically intense playing brought out the melodic wealth of the Largo. The Finale had energy and beauty, as in Mikhail’s double-stopping in the second theme and seemed only too short before its colossally exciting end.

The very different world of Piazzolla’s Le grand tango sprang to life in the husky melodies played with fervour and abandon. The slow central section gave pause before the final fast section, with its virtuoso writing, brought back the wildness you can only attempt if you have absolute mastery over what you are doing.

To calm the very enthusiastic audience in St Ninian’s Cathedral the Duo gave Fauré’s Après un rêve with gloriously refined, sustained tone.

Anemos Arts Ensemble - 21 February 2012

Anemos Arts Ensemble

Invigorating and musically rewarding guests for Perth Chamber Music at their Tuesday Concert were the Dutch wind quintet the Anemos Arts Ensemble. They made a spirited start with Mozart’s Divertimento K270. Lively in the Allegro, innocent in the Andantino, sprightly in the Minuet, they brought out all the bubbling fun of the Finale.

Reduced to just clarinet and bassoon for Poulenc’s Sonata of 1922, clarinetist Karel Plessers delighted the well attended St. Ninian’s Cathedral, Perth both with his description of the work and the performance, the lyricism of the Romance and the insouciant zest of the other two movements.

The Françaix Quintet No.1 (minus its Theme & Variations) brought the audience to the Interval with fine style, a quintet of individual characters of varied tone and dynamic.

With Sandar Teepen forsaking his oboe for the cor anglais, the Anemos Arts Ensemble gave a finely felt performance of James MacMillan’s Untold. Scottish-born flautist Angela Schneidt next played solo in three of Richard Rodney Bennett’s Songs for the Instruction of Singing Birds. Using the full range of the flute, including flutter tonguing, these pieces put character into the birdsong and enthralled the audience.

Back as a quintet for the final two pieces they gave wonderfully easeful tunes and colour in Elgar’s Chanson de matin and fine and distinctive playing to Debussy’s Petite Suite: a fine languorous sound to En Bateau, the piccolo and Lars Wachelder’s fine horn playing in the Menuet and a final Ballet of verve and excitement.

The splendour of wind sound in the acoustics of St. Ninian’s was such that the audience called back the players for an eagerly awaited encore: a joyous reading with fine colours of Zemlinsky’s Humoresque.

Heath Quartet - 17 January 2012

Heath Quartet

The members of the Heath Quartet were Perth Chamber Music’s guests on Tuesday evening in St. Ninian’s Cathedral, Perth. Quartets by Haydn, Janacek and Beethoven were given to the delight of the enthusiastic audience.

Haydn’s Op.33 No.1 is a dramatic quartet in the minor. The Heath Quartet plunged in with their intense tone catching the serious atmosphere. Called Scherzo the minuet second movement continued the drama of the piece with rigour. The Trio section was a total contrast: a lightly spun respite. The Andante showed leader Oliver Heath’s lyrical tone, as seconded by the others, in the radiance of this movement. Drama returned in the Presto with dazzling playing from all members of the Quartet.

The Heath Quartet plunged immediately into the more drastic emotions of Janacek’s Quartet No. 2 Intimate Letters with tremendous impact. Their approach to the second movement was more ecstatic and lyrical than some and contrasted well with the wild central part. Their emotional sensitivity was shown in the sad opening of the third movement leading to outburst and despairing recall. Beginning more conventionally happy the fourth became more anguished, then subsided to be broken by the two horrible scrubbing episodes and the final, manic return to the movement’s opening.

The Heath had poise and perfection in the classic quartet sounds of Beethoven’s Quartet in E flat Op. 74 Harp. The ‘harp’ pizzicato passages came over as an interesting extra colour and they showed a well differentiated dynamic range. Beethoven’s Adagio and their beautiful playing of it was the highpoint of the evening: warm textured and sensitively felt by all members of this fine ensemble. They tempered the vehemence with elegance in Beethoven’s Presto third movement, yet there was no mistaking the titanic forces at work. Their speed and ensemble in the Trio was breathtaking. The warm-hearted variations of the finale suited them well, finding great variety before the final furious fiddling of the end.

Different though equally perfect in style was the encore they offered to the applause of the appreciative audience: Mendelssohn’s Canzonetta from his Quartet in E flat Op. 12.

Clarion 3 - 6 December 2011

Clarion 3

The Perth Chamber Music concert on Tuesday evening was a total musical delight. The distinctive sound of the ensemble Clarion 3 caught the acoustic of Perth’s St Ninian’s Cathedral perfectly. Nor with such superb musicians as clarinetist Janet Hilton, bassoonist Laurence Perkins and pianist Sarah Beth Briggs could it have been otherwise.

They opened with a trio arrangement of the first movement of Beethoven’s Septet which was the liveliest, most friendly calling card. Next Sarah Beth Briggs played Three Character Pieces written by Britten at the age of 17, which she had premiered also at the age of 17. With the continental influence of his teacher Frank Bridge these ended with sparks in a virtuoso moto perpetuo.

The real discovery of the evening was William Hurlstone’s Trio in G minor of 1896. It showed mastery and purpose from the start with rewarding prominence for the wind in writing both accessible and charcterful. The second movement was a warm serenade. The Scherzo had Mendelssohnian fairies but naughtier, more impish. After a dark start the finale had a glorious tune, ending in a radiant coda.

The second half began with Janet Hilton in an affection filled performance of Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata. She showed poignant feeling and joie de vivre. Laurence Perkins’ bassoon took centre stage in Elgar’s Romance with sustained, poised lyrical playing in this poetic piece and, as he himself said, simple and beautiful in four of Vaughan Williams Folksong Studies. Sarah Beth Briggs was the sensitive accompanist.

All three were together again for an exciting and diverting performance of Glinka’s Trio pathétique. It neither sounded Russian nor plumbed emotional depth, but was more of beautifully played and amusingly characterized vocal scena from Italian opera of around 1830 - including a mellifluous duet and an exciting bring-the-curtain-down cabaletta. This proved so popular that Clarion 3 returned with a Brahms Hungarian Dance to send the appreciative audience out light of heart into the icy rain of the evening.

Elias String Quartet - 8 November 2011

Elias String Quartet

From their very first notes the technical perfection of Perth Chamber Music’s guests for their second concert was apparent.

The Elias Quartet began Britten’s early three Divertimenti by impressing with their absolute precision in pinpoint rhythms.

They excelled further technically, playing always vividly at the service of the music. In the March cascades of notes passed seamlessly from one instrument to the other. Their Waltz showed immediacy of emotion, this time innocence, with winsome pizzicato. Their fearless confidence of execution showed in the moto perpetuo Burlesque, their accuracy evoking a feeling of wildness.

For the start of Haydn’s Quartet they showed the warmth and friendliness of witty, civilized, intelligent conversation. Haydn shocked in his slow movement. It was a miniature operatic scene, where, after a curtain for all four, the cello then the first violin sang: very impassioned, dramatic even tragic. Then came the change to beautifully sustained writing for the aria. Next the most un-minuet like minuet Haydn wrote, the Elias following Haydn’s instructions and going straight into it so that the break between movements was blurred. The Finale was a fugue with four themes, but far from being dry the Elias brought out Haydn’s sense of fun.

After the interval they tackled what is probably the most demanding quartet ever written, and in its most exacting form: Beethoven’s Quartet in B Flat Op.130.

The opening movement started with a visceral depth of tone, which, while in no way denying the subtle and fine art of quartet playing, presented the music directly - The Elias really lived in this music.

They were at home with Beethoven’s gruffer sense of humour in the Presto second movement, giving its repeat a lightness and wit. Their third movement was fast in comparison to some, but made the music hang together. The German Dance fourth movement had them presenting the melody with sinuous beauty. The Cavatina was played with heart and honesty. Possibly Beethoven’s most profound piece of music was given with emotional truth and depth. To end with the Grand Fugue was overwhelming. They set out, and continued, with exemplary clarity taking the audience in the very full Art Gallery with them. The Allegro had energy and vigour, the gentler, slower section had no less clarity of thought with the third section bringing out more of Beethoven’s humour.

Their magnificent performance called forth tremendous, enthusiastic applause and bravos from the well filled gallery.

Arisa Fujita and Sam Haywood - 11 October 2011

Sam Haywood and Arisa Fujita

Perth Chamber Music began this year in the most magnificent style with a violin and piano recital in Perth's Art Gallery and Museum on Tuesday evening. The artists were rising Japanese star Arisa Fujita and, making a most welcome return to Perth, pianist Sam Haywood.

They began with the most developed of Bach's violin and keyboard sonatas: that in E Major BWV1016. In no way was this dour old Bach. After the lofty opening Adagio, Arisa Fujita and Sam Haywood played Bach's game of catch, joyously alternating the almost folk-like tune. A second Adagio, this time Arisa Fujita's nobly etched line limned itself against Sam Haywood's emotionally inflected playing. A final Allegro of bounce, brilliance and grandeur ended the Sonata.

Brahms' Violin Sonata No.2 came next in a performance with a first movement which was youthfully springlike yet with moments of wistful nostalgia. Again emphatically not Brahms the stuffy greybeard. The two musicians showed a sure, light touch in the Andante and were playfully lively in the Vivace sections of the second movement. With its low lying line the third movement is sometimes difficult to bring off for the violin, yet the duo combined both a glowing warmth and forward movement. Their engagement and enjoyment of this piece was shared by the large audience.

More Brahms followed the interval. This time the twenty year old in his Scherzo in C minor. Arisa Fujita and Sam Haywood played with plenty of ardour and power, giving the second theme a swashbuckling swagger. Their fervour in the Trio was the perfect foil in this most exciting playing.

Franck's Violin Sonata in A major was obviously played with enjoyment by the artists and enjoyed no less by the audience in the well filled Gallery. I have not before seen so many audience heads nodding vigorously in approbation. The fluid playing of the first movement rose to a tremendous climax, yet had delicacy too. The following Allegro had inspired vigour and the Recitativo third movement had both fire and deeply felt introspection. After all the emotion of the first three movements it was both release and pleasure to hear the fun Arisa Fujita and Sam Haywood had in the joyous canon of the final Allegretto. Recalled many times the pair offered as an encore the refined eloquence of Heifetz's arrangement of Debussy's song Beau Soir, which rose to passion with Arisa's double-stopping. It was a most superb start to this season of concerts.

Atrium String Quartet - 8 March 2011

Atrium String Quartet

Very successful in their choice of up and coming new groups Perth Chamber Music had another winner in the Atrium String Quartet. Made up of four Russian musicians now living in Berlin, their concert in St Ninian's Cathedral, Perth, had the attractive rarity of three Russian composers and three little known works.

The first work was Anton Arensky's Quartet No.2, written to the memory of Tchaikovsky it was a clearly constructed work with considerable melodic charm. As with all the pieces the Atrium Quartet showed not only considerable technical ability, but identified themselves emotionally. So the chant which permeated the work had its own special atmosphere and interest. In the same way the swings to melancholy and to joy had a palpable validity. The best known part is the theme and variations second movement: here they dazzled in the characterization of differing variations.

Shostakovich's Quartet No.10 in A Flat, one of his more rarely played, again had a performance which fully committed to the emotions. In the cool opening they portrayed the varying sonorities. In the second, Allegretto furioso, they made the most of this aggressive scherzo. The Atrium Quartet put over both the lament of the passacaglia Adagio and its shock at being interrupted by the cheeky trepak of the last movement.

Tchaikovsky's large scale Quartet No.3 followed the interval. Another memorial work, this time to a Czech violinist friend, lament and oration were important both in the substantial outer sections of the first movement and, the works centre, the Andante funebre. Higher spirits came to the fore in the dance inspired Scherzo and the energy of the Finale.

As counterbalance the Atrium Quartet gave a witty performance of Shostakovich's fun-poking Polka from his ballet The Golden Age.

Katharine Durran and Sebastian Comberti - 8 February 2011

Katharine Durran and Sebastian Comberti

Perth Chamber Music’s second concert of 2011 was a great event along a range of dimensions. The exciting partnership of cellist Sebastian Comberti and pianist Katharine Durran was heard in the intimate setting of Perth’s Art Gallery and Museum on Tuesday. Great music, to begin with, great artists at the top of their form and hugely generous with the amount they played.

They began with Beethoven’s grandest cello sonata, the one in A Major Op.69. Both artists had the measure of this work and were both vigorous and confident and sensitive and expressive. The middle movement Scherzo had the right Beethovenian mischief and heroic swagger.

Another heroic work, Brahms Cello Sonata No.2, was next. The first movement had magnificent sweep and the second was expressively played.

The miniatures which followed the interval showed that not only could they play great music grandly, but could also finesse a lighter style. First the now hardly known Alice Mary Smith in her sweet-toned Melody and spinning-song and waltz inspired Scherzo. Then two slightly better known composers Moszkowski in his Guitare and Glazounov in his Sérénade Espagnole - their grace and melodic felicity put over to perfection.

Finally came Mendelssohn’s Sonata No.2 in D major where at times the playing was buoyant and sparkling, at times impassioned or humorous.

And for an encore, they gave us Cassado’s Requierbos (Flirtations). Only the imminent locking up of the Museum could stop them!

Roxburgh Quartet - 18 January 2011

Roxburgh Quartet

The youthful Roxburgh String Quartet opened their concert in Perth Art Gallery on 18 January with two short works by Henry Purcell. Interestingly they played the Pavane and Chaconne, the famous one in G minor, with restrained vibrato, imitative of the viols for which the two pieces were originally written.

Their start to Debussy’s Quartet followed like a sunburst. They captured the ebb and flow of the first movement with warmth. Not for the only time that evening the viola of Feargus Hetherington gave a lead in the exciting second movement. The virtuoso pizzicato playing came over well. They rose to their best in an appealingly played lyrical slow movement. Their movement from the slow to the fast in the finale could have been handled more smoothly, but they captured the drama and brought out Debussy’s musical links well.

After the Interval, Perth heard its first performance of James Clapperton’s Schir Corbie Ravin. Feargus Hetherington had the prominent viola part, as sympathetic soloist in this some ten minute piece. The viola’s material in this intriguing work was derived from the early Scots tune Macpherson’s Lament.

The Roxburgh Quartet gave a dark, questioning reading to the Adagio at the start of Mozart’s Dissonance Quartet K465. They moved to light and grace in the Allegro, which ended with a happily played coda. The slow movement again inspired them to their best. Their interpretation of the Menuetto convincingly treated the piece as an energetic scherzo. Their finale was a little too relaxed, too inclined to slow up at the ends of phrases, but redeemed by their playing of the coda.

As response to the applause from the well-filled Art Gallery they offered a sprightly encore, Dvorak’s Nature Lies Peacefully in Slumber, No 11 of his Cypresses cycle.

Galliard Ensemble - 9 November 2010

Galliard Ensemble

From their very first notes, resounding in St Ninian’s Cathedral, Perth, it was clear that the Galliard Wind Ensemble’s Tuesday concert for Perth Chamber Music would be a very special event. This held true for the entire programme of Mozart and 20th Century Works.

The dramatic opening to Mozart’s Serenade in C minor K.388 immediately grabbed the attention and the acoustic with its urgent characterful playing.

Though 20th Century music may put some off, Perth Chamber Music had chosen wisely: the good, the great, the entertaining and the unusual were all there in superb performances starting with Milhaud’s La Cheminée du roi René.

Barber’s Summer Music was aptly characterized, as in its very different way was Hindemith’s Kleine Kammermusik. Nielsen’s Wind Quintet is great music and the Galliard Wind Ensemble clearly laid out the musical argument, starting the first movement bright and breezy and ending it with a wonderful glow of humanity. Their rustic vision of the Minuet had real charm, and their searching playing of the Praeludium and delight in the quirky variations brought prolonged applause from the large audience.

Paul Patterson’s Comedy for Five Winds was an ideal, at times uproarious, end to the concert, capped by an encore in the form of the Charleston from Norman Hallam’s Dance Suite.

Vogler Quartet - 19 October 2010

Vogler Quartet

For their first official concert of the season, Perth Chamber Music welcomed back the Vogler String Quartet, this time to a venue new to them St Ninian’s Cathedral, Perth.

In rehearsing, the Vogler Quartet had been so impressed by the acoustic of St Ninian’s that they wanted to play Kontrpunktus 1 from J.S.Bach’s Art of the Fugue before the programme proper. So the timeless Bach rang out with clarity, perfectly catching the acoustic.

Beethoven’s Quartet op.18 No.3 was a delightful second start to the evening, showing Beethoven at his most Haydn/Mozart influenced in this gently witty work. At 25 years without a change in personnel the rapport of the Vogler Quartet was immediate and total and they proved clear-eyed guides to this genial work.

Seven of Dvorak’s rarely performed Cypresses came next. Arranged from a set of love songs these diverse pieces had all of Dvorak’s melodic style. The short pieces showed warmth, tenderness, happiness and moved through the agitated to the wistful before the slightly more extended finale.

After the Interval Schumann’s little encountered Third Quartet was given in an outstanding performance. From the very first notes the Vogler Quartet were just so right in style.

To the pleasure of the audience the Vogler Quartet ended their concert with J.S.Bach’s Kontrpunktus 2 as a ‘second’, this time true, encore.

Millennium Quartet - 17 September 2010

Millennium Quartet

The 2010-11 classical music season here in Perth set off in superb style with the Millennium Quartet, who demonstrated enviable fluency, technique and anticipation. Dvorak’s "American" Quartet showed them to be a really fine ensemble with the most alert playing, capable too of beauty and relaxation. In Ginastera’s Quartet No. 1 they were fully attuned in idiom and energy, whilst also bringing out moments of delicacy.

Arta Arnicane (piano) - 9 March 2010

Arta Arnicane

With what seemed a personal favourite, Arta Arnicane was back to her considerable best with Debussy’s L’Isle joyeuse. This ended the printed programme with almost unbelievable verve and precision. This performance had the full clarity of the blazing sun but also ravishing tone in the lyrical interludes, before building to its exultant and ecstatic end.

The Carducci Quartet - 25 February 2010

Carducci Quartet

It was with agreeable anticipation that the audience awaited the return of the Carducci String Quartet for Perth Chamber Music’s Thursday evening concert in Perth Art Gallery.

The very best came in the final work, Beethoven’s Quartet in F, Op.59 No.1. The Carducci’s power in the first movement was rightly worlds away from the politeness falsely associated with a string quartet. It was grander and more wide ranging with magnificent playing in the development and a powerful climactic statement of the opening theme. They brought out Beethoven’s sense of fun in the Scherzo playing with rhythmic acuity, a fine manner with the more lyrical tunes and a wry little twist to the final bars. The Carducci Quartet’s playing gained the apex in the slow movement: taking ‘mesto’ (sadly) as the keyword they took the audience on a voyage of vivid emotion. An antidote to this was the relaxed, good humour of the Finale with its Russian folksong. Their playing seemed to improve still more through the varied incidents, until, with a final, wittily lingering look at the folksong, they hurtled to Beethoven’s joyous conclusion to be greeted by resounding applause from the Perth audience.

Jean Johnson (clarinet) and Scott Mitchell (piano) - 19 January 2010

Jean Johnson and Scott Mitchell

They began with a performance of Schumann’s Three Romances op.94 which went straight to their Romantic soul. The sound of both players was so right for these pieces from the very first notes where clarinet and piano converse intimately, at first wistfully then more movingly. The second piece showed great charm in its storytelling style and the folk-song influence was to the fore in the darker ballad style of the third piece.

The Alba Quartet - 8 December 2009

Alba Quartet

Schubert’s first real breakthrough in quartet writing was the isolated Quartet Movement in C minor. From the tense start to this work the Alba Quartet showed themselves totally engaged with the piece. They inhabited every note of every bar, portraying both the drama of the development and the burnished melody of the second subject.

Jennifer Pike - 3 November 2009

Jennifer Pike

St Ninian’s Cathedral, Perth was the venue for Tuesday’s Perth Chamber Music concert with violinist Jennifer Pike and pianist Daniel Tong. Jennifer Pike first came to fame at the age of 12 as youngest winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year Contest.

The programme opened with Kreisler’s Praeludium & Allegro. This piece looks at the Baroque and J.S.Bach with the far from authenticist eyes of this Romantic violin virtuoso. The fabulous sound of Jennifer Pike’s Matteo Goffriller violin delivered a flash and dazzle cadenza over the rumbling piano before the piece ended with a terrific display of double-stopping.

The Wihan Quartet - 13 October 2009

Wihan Quartet

Perth Chamber Music had their first concert of the season in their usual venue of Perth Art Gallery and Museum on Tuesday evening. The artists were the Wihan Quartet of Prague in works by Haydn, Smetana and Schubert’s unique String Quintet.

In playing Smetana the Wihan Quartet was playing one of their national heroes. Smetana’s late troubled masterpiece, his Quartet No.2, was given in an unforgettable performance both harrowing and sympathetic. Most graphic and intense was the third movement. This was truly the "whirlwind of music" Smetana spoke of. Their playing of the short fourth movement showed a Smetana desperate but not broken, his eyes on the future.