Concert 4. Wednesday 8th January 2014 8pm Print





Suk Piano Quartet in E minor op. 1
Martinu Piano Quartet no.1 (1942)
Dvorák  Piano Quartet no.2 in E flat op. 87





Within months of its formation in 2005,
the Escher Quartet was invited by both
Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman to
be the quartet-in-residence at their
summer festivals. Appointed BBC New
Generation Artists in 2010-12, they
continue to play at prestigious venues and
festivals around the world.
The short Bridge Quartet, a single
movement in three sections, starts with a
vigorous march, followed by a lovely slow
section, and a jolly finale. Britten’s last
quartet (1975) was the composer’s
swansong. It ends with the famous
Passacaglia finale – now to be viewed as a
farewell to life. Elgar’s quartet was written
in the aftermath of WW1 along with the
violin sonata, piano quintet and cello
concerto. Nostalgia for times past and the
horror of war pervade this quartet. The
outer movements are restlessly beautiful
and the central movement marked
piacevole (pleasing) tells of innocent
“…total focus, unflagging energy, bottomless
technique and, perhaps most important, rare
musical insight and a profound level of cohesion.”

The Frith Piano Quartet was formed in 2000 by the pianist Benjamin Frith, with Robert Heard, violin, Louise Williams, viola, and Richard Jenkinson, cello. Since its formation the group have performed the complete piano quartets of Brahms, Dvorák, Fauré and Mozart but also take a keen interest in bringing to light gems not so often heard in the concert hall.


An all Czech programme: Suk was a pupil of Dvorák and his tuneful and rhapsodic early piano quartet owes much to his teacher, who later became his father-inlaw. Although born in Bohemia, Martinu was forced to flee to the USA in 1941. Written there, his piano quartet combines rhythmically driven music with poignant and heartfelt melodies. Dvorák wrote of his piano quartet that it “came easily and the melodies just surged upon me, thank God” – how right he was.


"… excellent musicianship, strong ensemble work and fine solo performances … clearly appreciated by the audience."

Georgina Coburn, Inverness



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A Life Enhancing Celebration of Bohemian Music


We had already enjoyed three very different and equally superb concerts this season and this one more than maintained the standard set so far; your reviewer will soon be running out of superlatives. The Frith Piano Quartet was formed to explore this relatively rare medium, and two of the items played were rarities; brave choices that the audience responded to enthusiastically. They cleverly unified their programme by featuring music only by Bohemian composers.


The first rarity was by Joseph Suk, his opus one. It is no student effort but a fully fledged composition that the players presented with absolute conviction. The busy piano part is almost always subsidiary and Ben Frith's playing of it was tireless. Throughout the concert, with the piano lid fully open he never drowned out his colleagues. Richard Jenkinson's cello solo in the central slow movement was wonderfully expressive and the brilliant finale was given a full-blooded performance.


The cellist spoke to us engagingly about the Martinů quartet. In this work the pianist has a much more up-front role which he made the most of, and the composer's very individual mixture of tension and lyricism was well caught by all the players. The opening of the slow movement is a long sad passage for just the strings that could present many problems of intonation, but they were effortlessly surmounted by violinist Robert Heard and his colleagues. The changing moods of the finale were strongly projected with fearless attack in the more tense central section before the return of the happy syncopations so typical of this composer. Judging by its reception, this performance gave many audience members a new composer friend.


The Dvorak Piano Quartet is a much more familiar item and this most musically generous work was played with total understanding of its Slavonic nature. Louise Williams seized her many opportunities in the viola part with relish. No more need be said, it was a vivid and loving performance of a great piece. Thank you all.



The following recordings were recommended in the programme:


Suk and Martinu

A very useful full price CD on the Dorian label, DOR 93261, couples the Suk with the Martinu Piano Quartet in good performances, well recorded, by the Ames Piano Quartet. Another Czech Piano Quartet by Viteslav Novák completes the disc.



An excellent alternative, performed by the Nash Ensemble on the budget Helios Label, CDH 55416, includes the Suk Piano Quintet and Pieces for Violin and Piano. The recording quality is very good.



As an alternative to the Dorian disc above a group, including Daniel Adni (piano) and Isabelle Van Keulen (violin), perform the work on an all Martinu CD, including the Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Cello & Piano, The String Quintet and Violin Sonata No.1. The budget Naxos disc, 8.553916, is well recorded.



The two lovely Piano Quartets are superbly performed in excellent sound by Domus on Hyperion CDA 66288 (full price). The very fine alternative budget Naxos CD, 8.572169, has the same works performed by Helena Sucharova-Weiser (piano) and the Vlach Quartet Prague.


Raymond Waud.







Thanks to all those who have let us know if they cannot use their tickets for a concert; the contact is Mrs. Jennie Rundle ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 01943 609085). I remind you that she does not need the ticket (tear it up) — just the information. We do our best to sell your seats, issuing replacement tickets for your seat numbers. This makes money for the Club, helping to keep our Season Ticket prices low, and introduces potential new Members to the delights of ICC.


There seems to be a bit of confusion about the system introduced last Season for paying Refunds for seats that we have sold. This new procedure substantially reduces the security risk resulting from the amount of cash we have hold between concerts.

An example might help:

If you told us that your seat would be available for resale for, say, the October concert, then you can collect an envelope containing the cash at the November concert. If you could not do this, or forget, Jennie will be at the desk after the end of each concert to write a cheque for the your refund. By this means you can collect a cheque refund for the October concert at the December (or subsequent concerts in the same Season).


The system for the May concert is similar, except that you can collect the cash refund at the next Season's October concert, or you can collect it as a cheque at the November concert. After this, if you have not collected it, we assume that you have given the refund to ICC— as has been the case for many seasons.


At the Winter Garden desk you will find a framed notice summarising the above — if in doubt ask us please.



Not the "Farewell" Symphony, but played with the same goodbye thoughts in mind by Florigelium at the last concert. It was J S Bach's Canon in 6 Parts BWV 1076. The harpsichord started the piece and the other players joined in one by one and and then left the stage one by one, leaving the lonely harpsichord player Terence Charlston to finish.



Mrs Eibhlís Scally died on 5 December 2013 having been a Member of ICC for 32 years, and very generous supporter of the Club over that period. During her illness, when she was sadly no longer able to come to the concerts, she made very large gift to support the Club.