Brilliant: five playing as one

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Enthralling performance: the Wihan Spring Concert at Iden's All Saints church

Since they had enthralled audiences twice in the last few years at the Rye festival, local music lovers anticipated a special event when the Czech Wihan String Quartet returned to play a programme of three masterpieces.

Music lovers were not disappointed and have good reason to be grateful to Rye residents Tony and Gill Clamp, who, with help from all at All Saints’ Church, Iden, arranged a Wihan Spring Concert for Saturday May 3. The concert began with Mozart, one of his set of quartets dedicated to his friend and admirer and almost equally great composer, Josef Haydn. K.421 is the only one of Mozart’s later and most mature quartets in a minor key, D minor, and the Wihans brought out all of its tragic power, suggesting that this and not a later one of the Haydn group, should really be named the Dissonance. No one who hears this could possibly think of Mozart as the composer of tinkly background music.

The very different single quartet by Maurice Ravel followed to complete the concert’s first half and showed the players at their lyrical but authoritative best; the work’s dedicatee, Gabriel Faure, had reservations about it but Debussy urged Ravel to leave the score unchanged and we can only agree with him. The interval gave listeners the opportunity to enthuse about the musicianship of our visitors and to contemplate with anticipation their chosen work for the second half: Robert Schumann’s magnificent Piano Quintet in which they were joined by their compatriot, the pianist Martin Kasik.

The five performed in the Schumann as the four had performed previously in the Mozart and the Ravel: as one. The quintet’s energetic and tender elements are set against tragic and moving episodes, all brilliantly interwoven in one of the composer’s most powerful creations. The brilliance of the playing ensured that the musicians were not allowed to leave until the work’s coda had been repeated at the end of an evening which will stay in the memory for a very long time. Tony and Gill – we are in your debt.

Photo Gill Clamp