Britten Sinfonia at Lunch

CHRISTOPHER SMITH The Assembly House, Norwich


The Assembly House, Norwich

Not the full Britten Sinfonia, but a trio made up of violin, clarinet and piano delighted an attentive audience with a vigorously performed programme of four strongly characterised works. Two were 20th century classics, and the other pair were of more recent vintage.

Movements from “A Soldier's Tale” had Stravinsky's typical buoyancy, with a fresh edge and new passion given to familiar musical patterns. The March struck out fearlessly while refusing to go in the usual directions. The Little Concert, given special force by violinist Alina Ibragimova's determined down-bows, took on a Russian accent, and the Dance section included a slinky tango and a parody of a waltz.

“Contrasts” by Bela Bartok lived up to its title, with its cheerful echoes of folk music and jazz set off against episodes that were reflective, even melancholic. Clarinettist Joy Farrall, who also compered the recital with relaxed enthusiasm, enjoyed the chance of showing us her instrument's versatility in gorgeous low tones and deft articulation as she dashed upwards. Maintaining balance while giving individuality to a piano part that was always more than accompaniment, Huw Watkins also figured as a composer. His “Dream”, though not very long, offered a good deal of variety in some particularly attractive serene passages with the two melody instruments in dialogue.

In “Fragments From A Diary” Michael Zev Gordon created a succession of moods in short movements, some of them very brief indeed. The results were suggestive, even if working out the relationship between the sounds and the poetic quotation inspiring them was a bit of a guessing game.

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