FLORIN ENSEMBLE – string trio & oboe

Wednesday 5th December 2012

 – String Trio in G

Britten – Phantasy Quartet (1932) for oboe & strings

Mozart – Divertimento in E flat K 563

Florin, the ensemble with a string trio at its heart, performs a wide range of chamber music and for this performance they are joined by oboist Joseph Sanders. With strong chamber music backgrounds and diverse musical lives outside the group, Florin creates thought-provoking interpretations with a distinctive sense of common musicianship.  E J Moeran, a pupil of John Ireland, wrote his trio in 1931 almost at the same time that the youthful Britten was composing the striking and characteristic Phantasy, for which he later won the Cobbett prize.  The concert ends with a summit of the string trio repertoire, one of Mozart's late, great masterpieces, a massive work in six movements. The only composition he completed for this combination, Alfred Einstein called it "one of his noblest works."


Three’s Company, Four is More at the King’s Hall Ilkley

The Florin Ensemble began this splendid concert with E J Moeran’s String Trio, a relatively extended work that requires quite a range of responses to bring out all its secrets. The Florins were fully up to the task, whether in the brooding slow movement or the robust dance-like music of the scherzo and finale. The lengthy first movement with its teasing seven-in-a-bar metre was engagingly projected, resonant pizzicati particularly memorable; the body language of the players demonstrating all the while how much they identified with this unjustly neglected score.

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The Trio was then joined by oboist Joseph Sanders for Britten’s Phantasy Quartet. This is a testing work for all the players and they came through with flying colours. Britten’s typically piquant instrumental scoring was given full value, his very individual writing receiving an imaginative response from each player. In the central slow section Alistair Scahill’s viola solo was powerful and expressive. The oboe sound was beguiling throughout and it left me wishing we could hear more from the instrument after the interval.

But that was not to be as Mozart’s K563 String Trio Divertimento made for a more than generous second half. This masterpiece is a challenging one for the players, a real test of technical prowess. Textures are so clear, there is nowhere to hide, and at three quarters of an hour’s duration it’s a long haul for them; but as violinist Charles Mutter said in his excellent prefatory talk it’s gloriously rewarding to play as their committed performance fully demonstrated.

Correctly they used less vibrato than they had for the music in the first half, yet there was no lack of expressiveness in the playing. Where Mozart asks for the music to be repeated piano they had fun reducing the sound to near inaudibility. In an earlier minuet movement cellist Cathertine Rimer’s contribution was forthright and characterful as it had been throughout. A marvellous concert that sent us out into a very cold night with a warm glow.


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