Adam Chamber Music Festival. Fairytales: Schumann: Märchenerzählungen, Op 132; Brahms: Intermezzi, Op 117; Bruch: Eight Pieces, Op 83, Nos 5, 2, 6, 7.
James Campbell (clarinet), Gillian Ansell (viola), Martin Roscoe (piano)
Nelson School of Music, Friday 11 February 1pm
The festival’s artistic directors, no doubt always in close rapport with the artists concerned, have had an unerring ability to fit the music together in contexts that were coherent but also fitted the time of day and the venue.
That has been so true of the midday concerts in the charming church of St John.
Schumann’s Fairy Tales were among the last pieces he wrote before his mind collapsed, and it is possible to suggest that the quality of melodic inspiration has declined. But the spirit of whimsy and playfulness remained, clearly enough here. Nevertheless it is true that the weaker the music, the more dependent it is on loving and inspiring performance. The four pieces here, melodically not very memorable, came to life with these players who could invest them with such affecting charm and colour.
Though nothing much came to mind when I tried to conjure up images or fairy tales to accompany the pieces, no visual support was really needed to accompany this delicate music.
Martin Roscoe then played comparable, though one must admit, much more inspired and imaginative music – Brahms’s Three Intermezzi of Op 117. They were the kind of performance that one imagines might reside in a Platonic heaven of Ideals: absolutely immaculate, richly expressive in their nostalgia or gaiety, full of life, so natural and simply beautiful in pace, articulation and dynamics.
Then there were four of Max Bruch’s Eight Pieces for this trio of instruments, his Op 83 – the combination that exists because Mozart wrote the only truly great music for it in the Kegelstatt Trio, K 498. One or two groups have lighted upon these Bruch pieces recently, but none had convinced me of their charm and sheer musical worth as much as this performance has. The tunes were clear and memorable and the balance and ensemble of the trio brought them to life in the most beguiling way, with some quite beautiful clarinet playing. Hearing such attractive pieces always induces me to explore more of the neglected Bruch, but one is usually a little bit disappointed; I shall keep exploring.
This was the last performance by Martin Roscoe in the Festival; other concert promoters could do worse than invite him back soon.