MUSIC NASH ENSEMBLE QUEEN’S HALL ★★★★ ★
THE title of Bartok’s Contrasts for violin, clarinet and piano rather gives the game away as to what this Benny Goodman commission is about. Even in its opening bars at the Queen’s Hall yesterday morning, the mellifluous runs of Nash Ensemble clarinettist Richard Hosford were in complete contrast to the pizzicato sounds of violinist Andrew Haveron. With pianist Ian Brown completing the group, their assertive performance was perfectly balanced. Classy playing was flawless from all three.
Contrast of a different sort was offered in George Gerswhin’s Lullaby for string quartet, first heard at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1963 in a version that starred Larry Adler on harmonica. If an unease of synchrony among the four players restricted the sweet gentleness of Gerswhin’s charming melody, their gutsy sound was a distinct advantage in Copland’s Sextet. Rhythmically complex, at times hard-edged in its jaggedness, the quartet plus clarinet and piano brought energy to Copland’s transcription of what started out as a symphony. Dvorak’s String Quintet No 3 was similarly full-bodied, occasionally rough at the edges, but breathtaking in its animated vigour.