Monday, 8 February 2010


5/2/10, Cadogan Hall

A Martinu piano quartet. A Smetana piano trio. A Dvorak piano quintet.

The Martinu was spiky, well on the way towards the unlistenable-to range of 20th century music, with random phrases apparently strung together in a disconnected fashion. At the end of the first movement, which went at a tremendous lick and was urgent and percussive, the man behind me let out a low whistle of admiration. In the slow movement one particular passage had the Chinese girl student who turned the pages for the pianist looking absolutely crestfallen: the only time I saw her impassivity flicker. The last movement had a lovely song-like theme which floated above choppy, jagged playing by the strings (violin, viola and cello).

The Smetana was bombastic. I fell asleep. But recall enough to conclude that it was agreeably characterful.

The Dvorak was infinitely preferable. It had tunes. And conventional harmonies. It was plangent. There were four movements. An hour later that's all I could remember.

The men wore grey suits and purple shirts without ties which made them look like Anglican bishops. Except for the second violinist who joined for the Dvorak, whose shirt was blue and who seemed younger and more enthusiastic than the rest. The (female) cellist had a fine red skirt. The viola-player's socks were too short. He had a rather coarse countryman's appearance, red-faced and block-shaped: I was told afterwards that in real life he's a farmer. I spent much time watching the players watching one another: first one would lead, then another, like passing the baton between runners.

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