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.