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"...for warmth and intimacy and glorious surroundings, Llanfyllin can scarcely be beaten" - The Allegri Quartet

2007 Concert Programme

Date

Programme

8th June

Schubert Quartet Op 125 No1 in Eflat
Nielson "At the Bier of a Young Artist"
Mozart Clarinet Quintet K581 in major (with James Campbell)

10th June

Beethoven Quartet Opus 18 No 4 in C minor
Schubert Ocet Opus 166 in F major

29th June

Haydn Quartet Op 76 No1 in G major
Bartok Quartet No 6
Beethoven Quartet Op 59 No 3 in C major "Rasoumovsky"

1st July

Haydn Quartet Opus 20 No 6 in A major
Szymanovsky Quartet No 2
Beethoven Quartet Opus 127 in E flat

All of this year's concerts took place in St Myllin's Church.

Other events

The Allegri also performed during the Oswestry School Recital Series, and the concert was for this website by one of the committee members:

Oswestry School Recital Series September 23, 2006

Mozart Quartet K575 in D major
Smetana Quartet No 1, "From My Life"
Brahms Piano Quintet in F minor

The hall of the Peter Humphreys Centre was gratifying crowded for this concert, which was completely sold out. In future I think we will all be careful to book well in advance!

This was an early opportunity to meet the Allegri in its new form with Alda Dizdari replacing Daniel Rowland as first violin. A change of personnel always causes a slight twinge of unease among the longstanding admirers of the Quartet and although some of us had seen Alda during a tryout at Llanfyllin, she was not known to the whole audience. The "rousing Oswestry welcome" with which Christopher Symons invited us to welcome the Quartet was thus inflected with a distinct sense of anticipation.

The Mozart Quartet is a surprisingly genial work given that it was written in a period of worry and illness towards the end of Mozart's life, and the Allegri's rendition was all we have come to expect - full of a sense of fun and enjoyment, the musicians seeming to play for their own enjoyment as much as for ours.

When one sees a subtitle such as "From My Life" appended to a piece of music, there is always a slight fear that it will prove a self-indulgent interpretation of the artist's trials and tribulations. Perhaps in other hands, Smetana's Quartet No1 would indeed have had such a flavour, and I suspect would have proven distinctly indigestible. Not this evening. We were treated to a fiery and invigorating performance; melodies and rhythms thrown from voice to voice and back again, the grave and serious beautifully contrasted with the exuberant and frivolous. In nearly thirty years of concertgoing, I don't think I've ever heard this piece performed better. Not even by the Allegri themselves!

After the interval, the Quartet was joined by Christopher Symons, the Director of the Oswestry School Recital Series, for a performance of Brahms' Piano Quintet in F minor. Again the sense of the musicians' enjoyment was transmitted to the audience in a really powerful performance, exhilarating and reflective by turns. This was a rousing end to a concert that I believe we could well name among the Allegri's very best performances of the last fifty years.

Rachel Wright

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8 June 2007 – The Allegri Quartet

Schubert Quartet Op 125 No1 in Eflat
Nielson "At the Bier of a Young Artist"
Mozart Clarinet Quintet K581 in major (with James Campbell)

The Quartet changed the order of the first two pieces, perhaps wisely, as the Nielson might have proved a rather sorrowful way to go into the Interval. "At The Bier of A Young Artist" was composed in memory of Oluf Hartmann. It certainly sounded grief-stricken, but in this rendition there was perhaps some hint of grief assuaged or sence of acceptance to mitigate the sorrow. Only a short piece, the long silence before the applause spoke volumes for the effect the music had on us.

An early piece, written shortly after Schubert left boarding school, this is sunny and good humoured - perfect music for a summer evening. It gave a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the wonderful tone of the present first violin, Ofer Falk, and the beautiful blended sound the Allegri can produce. The braying donkey mentioned in the programme notes seemed entirely apposite when we had arrived for the concert amid the baa-ing of the local sheep!

The Allegri were joined in the second half by the clarinettist James Campbell, whose liquid, lyrical tone is well-known to regulars at the Festival - indeed, he commented (amid reminiscent nods from the audience) that he first played this Mozart Quintet at Llanfyllin some fifteen or more years ago!

Some Clarinetists place themselves prominently at one side or the other of the quartet - James Campbell places himself in the middle, where he can interact with every other musician with equal facility. We could see him doing so, and so this lovely work was presented afresh, by musicians who seemed to enjoy themselves at least as much as we did.

Rachel Wright
Committee Member

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10 June 2007 – The Allegri Quartet (and Friends!)

Beethoven Op 18 No.4 in C minor
Schubert Octet Opus 166 in F major

One wonders what Beethoven's aristocratic patrons made of the rugged chords and abrupt szforzandi of this quartet - by no means a gentle piece of background music for a soiree, this! The programme notes reminded us that the Opus 18 are still very much the experiments of a young composer, and in his introduction, Pal reminded us that in Beethoven's hands, the key of C minor becomes the key of tragedy. Fortunately, Beethoven is much too good a composer to force his listeners to wallow in unalloyed misery, even writing as he was at the onset of the deafness that was to last for the rest of his life, so while we were made to feel the intensity of woe, we were also able to rejoice in the playfulness of the Scherzo and the excitements of the Rondo.

After the Interval, the Allegri were joined by James Campbell (clarinet), Jarek Augustiniak (bassoon), John Davy (French Horn), and Tony Hougham (double bass) for Schubert's Octet. James Campbell, introducing the second half of the concert, first referred us to Chris Symons' programme notes (excellent - indeed, recommended for further study after the concert!) and then introduced the other musicians. He also told us how much musicians enjoy the opportunity to play this piece, although as he said, co-ordinating the diaries of eight musicians for rehearsals is a challenge. That whatever rehearsal they did was more than sufficient, they more than proved by their performance. Individually superb musicians, their concentration and craftsmanship created a superb ensemble, and a wonderful musical conversation. The occasional smiles that illuminated the concentration testified to the truth of James Campbell's claim that this piece is as popular with performers as with audiences.

Rachel Wright
Committee Member

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29 June 2007 – The Allegri Quartet

Haydn Quartet Op76 No 1 in G major
Bartok Quartet No 6
Beethoven Quartet Op59 No 3 in C major

If the weather did not match that for the earlier concerts, the music certainly did. The Allegri began with Haydn, a quartet from his "Sturm und Drang" period, played with the combination of delicacy and joyous excitement that we have come to expect.

The mood abruptly turned serious for Bartok's Quartet No 6. Written while the composer was still in Hungary during the period before the outbreak of World War II, it expresses all the grief and desperation that we might expect a sensitive man to feel at the realisation that World War I had not, after all, been "the war to end all wars". At the same time, Pal reassured us, in his introduction, that No 6 is a much more audience-friendly than No 5! In this piece, the Quartet had the difficult task of making sense for us of music that expressed the despair, ferocity and chaos that Bartok was expressing, a task in which they most certainly achieved success. One of the great advantages of having the musicians introduce the music is that it provides sidelights on other parts of the repertoire and suggestions for further listening. I doubt I am the only one of the audience who is now greatly intrigued by the "audience-unfriendly" Quartet No 5!

After the interval the Quartet returned for Beethoven's Quartet Op 59 No3 from the "Rasoumovsky" set. This performance glowed with the beauty of tone that never faltered even in the hair-raising final movement, which opens with a fugue known to be one of the supreme tests for a violist. The rapturous applause which greeted the final note was testimony to the way in which we had been carried away by a performance full of exhileration, a match for the "subtlety and finesse" that Stravinsky found in Beethoven's writing.

Rachel Wright
Committee Member

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1 July 2007 – The Allegri Quartet

Haydn Quartet Opus 20 No 6 in A major
Szymanovsky Quartet No 2
Beethoven Quartet Opus 127 in E flat

There seems to have been an element of prevision in the programming this weekend - the Haydn Opus 20 set has the sobriquet "Sun Quartets", and certainly the only sunshine we saw was the musical version! Pal told us that it was the beauty of the second movement Adagio that had attracted the Allegri to this particular quartet of the set, written when Haydn was, as he recounted in a letter to a friend "forced to become original" while immured on the Esterhazy estate on the plains of Hungary, miles away from the cultural centres of the day. It made a wonderfully good humoured start to the last concert of the Festival.

The Szmanovsky Quartet No 2 was an altogether different matter. Written in 1927, it displays some of the affinities the composer claimed with tonal colours of Debussy and Stravinsky. I suspect this piece was new to many in the audience, and certainly it required great concentration of all, both on the stage and off. The chilly tremolandos of the first movement and the strident, frenetic activity of the second made a striking contrast with the golden sunlight of the Haydn we had just heard, just as the fugue of the final movement was completely unlike Haydn's final fugue in the earlier piece. One of the great benefits of attending a concert is that not only do we sometimes gain some interesting insights - which rarely strike when listening to recordings - but that these are given point and weight by being able to watch the piece performed, and see elements of melody, or fragmentary figures passed from musician to musician.

In his programme notes for the concert (excellent as always) Christopher Symons describe Beethoven's Opus 127 Quartet as "majestic". In this reading, it became a breathtaking and impassioned majesty, lightened with elements of playfulness, a rousing end to a wonderful concert series, deservedly greeted with enthusiastic applause.

Rachel Wright
Committee Member

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