Vanbrugh Quartet and Piers Lane, Norwich

FRANK CLIFF The Vanbrugh Quartet, with pianist Piers Lane, brought the Festival's chamber concerts of 20th Century English and French music to a magnificent conclusion.

FRANK CLIFF

The Vanbrugh Quartet, with pianist Piers Lane, brought the Festival's chamber concerts of 20th Century English and French music to a magnificent conclusion on Saturday evening at the John Innes Centre. It has been rewarding to hear some of the rarely performed chamber music of Vaughan Williams, unjustifiably neglected these days, as well as the three chamber works of Elgar, culminating on Saturday with the piano quintet.

The French connection was maintained with Vaughan Williams' string quartet of 1908 with its echoes of Ravel, for this was the year VW studied with him in Paris. Despite that influence, the work shows his distinctive voice and the Vanbrugh performed it exquisitely with obvious affection; lovely music, if perhaps a trifle long for what it has to say.

"Impressionism" might also be applied to Amberley Wild Brooks and Spring Tides by John Ireland; two piano pieces inspired by "watery" subjects, though not even Piers Lane's superb playing could wash away the thought of that adjective's pejorative connection.

Lane joined the Vanbrugh for a performance of the Elgar piano quintet, and here there is an extra dimension to the playing which had everyone enthralled from the opening bars. This was a reading which reflected all the emotional contrasts of the music, especially its haunting melancholy; an inspired climax to this exemplary series.