Contempo Quartet with James Lisney

FRANK CLIFF John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Norwich


> John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Norwich

In a recital comprising three piano quintets, one of which was unfamiliar and another receiving its first English performance, it seemed somewhat eccentric to begin with Elgar's opus 84, music more qualified as the final work in a programme.

Yet that it was and the ConTempo Quartet, with pianist James Lisney, proved an excellent match in what was a full-bloodied performance.

They achieved a near-perfect balance between the sometimes exuberant but often troubled music of the outer movements and fully realised the poignant beauty of the central adagio.

The material of the four short movements of Jane O'Leary's quintet comprises brief ideas which experiment with the variety of sounds this combination can produce: the strings of the piano played in different ways and contrasted with the full potential of effects string instruments can produce.

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It was difficult to grasp the structure and there seemed little contrast between the movements, but the ConTempo, with O'Leary as pianist, performed it convincingly enough.

The structure of the Romanian composer George Enescu's quintet was not so elusive, though in contrast to O'Leary's brevity, here was a work which was, to say the least, discursive.

Here maybe lay the reason for the positioning of the Elgar.

The last rambling edifice of the first movement, lasting the best part of half an hour followed by an equally tedious second movement, might have induced permanent torpor.

The best efforts of the ConTempo and Lisney couldn't bring it to life.

Not quite as bad as sitting unfed through Parsifal, but pretty close.

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