New season: Norfolk and Norwich Music Club

TONY COOPER Norfolk and Norwich Music Club continues blazing a trail for chamber music, and is gearing up for its new season.


This club has certainly built up a massive reputation over the years and today it's widely acknowledged as a major force in the music world of this country and a major contributor to the growing reputation of Norwich as an important and vibrant cultural centre.

News of its success has spread far and wide and well beyond the boundaries of East Anglia, to the extent that world artists and ensembles often ask to play Norwich with many of them booked for the Wigmore Hall in London, the world 'shrine' to chamber music.

This is reflected in two weekends of chamber music. The first (October 27/28) features one of Europe's finest period-instrument string quartets, the Paris-based Mosaiques Quartet.

They make infrequent visits to England and decided to come to Norwich after hearing about the club's appreciative audiences, particularly with regard to quartet playing.

Their two concerts feature music from France, Germany and Austria with music by Bach (three fugues from The Art of Fugue), Mendelssohn (F minor quartet), Beethoven (opus 130/Grosse Fugue), Debussy (G minor quartet) and the C major quartet, opus 3/1, by the rarely-heard 18th-century Parisian composer, Hyacinth Jadin, whose works include three piano concerti, numerous piano sonatas, chamber music and works inspired by the French Revolution.

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The critic of The Gramophone praised the quartet: “In matters of ensemble and intonation they eclipse all other period-instrument quartets I know, and their technical prowess is allied to a breadth and subtlety of musical insight.”

The brilliant young pianist, Ashley Wass, selected by the BBC for their highly-successful Young Generation Artists' scheme, made such an impression on his visit last year that he's back and bringing with him some of his most gifted musical friends.

The result is that over the weekend of January 26/27 he'll be heading a distinguished band of young musicians, including the outstanding Armenian cellist, Alex Chaushian.

There's a wide variety of chamber music in three programmes they're presenting, including a work from the enigmatic French composer Gabriel Fauré, Elgar's quintessentially English piano quintet (written at the same time as the cello concerto) and Brahms' lush, romantic piano quintet.

Also programmed is a rare piece by Korngold, a composer, perhaps, known better for his film music. His suite for two violins, cello and piano (left hand) will be heard.

Top international pianists have always been a major feature of the club's programming, and this year John Lill is coming our way (March 2) and it's a long time since he has appeared in the city. Always a popular figure, he'll include in his programme Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata, Schumann's Carnival in Vienne and Prokoviev's scintillating Toccata, opus 11. Three great works of the repertoire!

And making his first visit to East Anglia (November 30) is the young and much sought-after Macedonian pianist, Simon Trpceski, who first came to the attention of the world's critics when he won and gave an astonishing performance at the London International Piano Competition as well as a dynamic Proms debut.

He'll play works by Chopin, Brahms, Debussy and Scriabin.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Ralph Vaughan Williams, soprano Jeni Melia (trained by Emma Kirkby) appears with Lindsay Braga (violin) and Christopher Goodwin (lute) presenting an original programme of English songs interspersed with music by Dowland and his contemporaries (February 16).

Mikhail Kopelman (who for many years led the legendary Borodin Quartet) has now formed his own ensemble, appropriately named the Kopelman Quartet.

Their reputation as a quartet (made up by selected musicians from St Petersburg) is growing enormously so their first visit to Norwich promises a memorable one (March 15). They'll play works by Borodin and Shostakovich as well as the rarely-performed piano quintet by the Russian composer, Jacob Weinberg. Kopelman's daughter, Elizabeth (who has appeared several times for the Aldeburgh Festival at Snape Maltings) is the pianist.

In keeping with the club's policy of promoting the very best artists on the world stage, other ensembles in the season include the Formosa Quartet from America (September 29) and last year's winners of the London International String Quartet Competition. Formed in 2003 by four outstanding young Juilliard and Harvard musicians, they came together for a concert tour of Taiwan, the land of their shared heritage.

A new introduction to the programme this year is devoted to lieder and song (November 24).

The experienced accompanist, Alisdair Hogarth, with his group, The Prince Consort (inspired by The Songmaker's Almanac), has prepared a programme of lieder by Strauss, Brahms and Schubert, as well as English songs by Gerald Finzi and Samuel Barber. The programme should display to the full the beautiful and lyrical voices of Jennifer Johnston (mezzo) and Jacques Imbrailio (baritone), the latter a Royal Opera House Young Artist, who made such an impression at the recent Cardiff Singer of the World competition.

The Guarneri Piano Trio from Prague (November 10) includes Mozart, Suk and Brahms in their programme while the TinAlley String Quartet from Australia (March 29) will play the first European performance of Norfolk-based composer Douglas Weiland's third string quartet. Their odd-sounding name comes from the main route running through Melbourne University's Parkville campus.

The popular Angell Piano Trio closes the season on April 12 with a performance of a marvellous romantic work - Schubert's B flat major trio.

However, the opening concert on September 7 (a BBC Radio 3 Discovering Music event) features The Gould Trio and Friends - Lucy Gould (violin), Alice Neary (cello) and Benjamin Frith (piano) with James Boyd (viola) and Graham Mitchell (double-bass).

The first half of their programme will be an analysis (with live examples) of Schubert's A major piano quintet (The Trout), guided by Stephen Johnson, broadcaster and musicologist, while the second half sees a complete performance of this popular and inviting work.

It's a good start to what promises a fine and entertaining season!

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