Britten Sinfonia at Lunch

CHRISTOPHER SMITH The Assembly House, Norwich


The Assembly House, Norwich

A capacity audience in the Assembly House showed how successful the Britten Sinfonia has been with its series of lunchtime chamber concerts that link classics with more modern works and brand new compositions.

Poulenc's Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano presented the French style of the Twenties at its jauntiest. Cocking a snook at the stolid manner of the previous generation, it was not afraid to make us smile when the bassoon dives down and down. Then humour gave way to elegance.

Listening to only the second public performance ever of the Little Suite for Five Players was an interesting experience. Perhaps it was fortunate that we were given some suggestions what to concentrate on, because the 23-year-old composer, Daniel Basford, plainly has a taste for taking things in reverse.

So he started with a Nocturne, a night-piece, which might have been expected to come at the end, turned to a faster tempo for his second movement, Dance, and ended more slowly with Chorale. Turning away from the more usual pattern of moving to integration, he explored the gradual breakdown of musical ideas, ending up with what was really a question.

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The Suite was performed with confidence and a pleasing variety of tone by Ruth Bolister (oboe and cor), Joy Farrall (clarinet and bass clarinet), Sarah Burnett (bassoon), Martin Owen (horn) and Piers Lane (piano).

The same forces combined for the finale, the E flat Quintet in which Mozart showed not only his love of the clarinet but his readiness to give all the instruments their fair share of the limelight. Nuance might have come across with even more clarity if the volume had sometimes been a bit lower, particularly in some of the bigger chords on the modern piano.

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