The opening of the Haydn ‘Lark’ Quartet is one to look forward to keenly, but on this occasion, owing to undernourished violin tone and insecure intonation, the lark failed to take flight. Things looked up in the gentle slow movement and following lively minuet. Full amends were made in the moto perpetuo finale where Krysia Osostowicz played the non-stop rush of semiquavers with great élan.
Robert Plane then joined the quartet, talked to us engagingly about the piece he was to play and congratulated us on filling the hall (long may Ilkley’s enthusiastic support for live classical music continue). Stanford’s Fantasy no.1 for Clarinet and String Quartet gave him plenty of opportunity to display his very characterful playing in the more animated sections and mellifluous tone, especially in the middle slower movement. Not great music perhaps, but music that we were grateful to be given the rare chance to listen to.
Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet is a ‘late’ work and can suffer from the reputation that this fact has bestowed on it. It is a cliché to talk of its ‘autumnal glow’ and its perceived air of regret and resignation. But if that is stressed in performance then what is in fact a fine and strong piece of chamber music can all too easily seem mawkish and self-pitying. Robert Plane and the Dantes steered well clear of that trap, whilst still plumbing the work’s considerable depth and strength of feeling. The first movement had proper momentum and its contrasting elements were well projected. The slow movement is the heart of the piece, the opening was full of tenderness and the central gypsy music had true Magyar flavour. Cellist Bernard Gregor-Smith shone in the wistful scherzo and viola-player Rachel Roberts’ was poignantly expressive in the last movement’s final variation; altogether a richly satisfying performance.