Brancaster Midsummer Music

A near-capacity audience attended the opening concert of the Jubilee Year Festival at Brancaster Church, which was given by the Smart Quartet.

A near-capacity audience attended the opening concert of the Jubilee Year Festival at Brancaster Church, which was given by the Smart Quartet, four delightful young ladies just completing their musical studies at the Royal Northern College of Music. This was their final performance together before they pursue their own careers.

In Haydn's string quartet (The Bird) they displayed a beautiful tone and great unanimity, yet allowing each part clearly to come through.

Viola player Roger Bigley joined them for Vaughan Williams' Phantasy Quintet and once again the ear was entranced by the beautiful playing.

Alexander Baillie is one of this country's leading cellists and appeared in solo capacity on Saturday, with locally based harpsichord player Dr Gerald Gifford. Alexander Baillie joined the five other string players in the final work of the evening, Brahms'sextet in b-flat major. This is one of the composer's earlier works in which with six strings he moves away from the traditional quartet, achieving richer textures in a work full of melodic invention. Brahms was dismissive of this work in later life but why is not clear for, as Friday's performance displayed, it is a sheer delight. While in no way denigrating the other players, it was quite apparent that the presence of a musician of Alexander Baillie's standing lifted the whole performance.

The festival resumes on Friday with a recital by Agnieszka Marucha (violin) and Asako Ogawa (piano), before moving to Hunstanton Town Hall on Saturday, when Peter Marchbank will be conducting the Royal Northern College of Music Chamber Orchestra.

Credit must be given to the festival committee, notably Peter Marchbank, for bringing suxh artists to a small Norfolk village, but my own view is the festival is somewhat elitist and I would like to see events with a wider appeal in future.

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