This stunning concert of Britten, Brahms and Poulenc provides a window into the souls of these remarkable artists.
Benjamin Britten’s Phantasy Quartet, composed when he was only 19, had a rather lukewarm reception when the BBC
broadcast it back in 1933, even though it won him the prestigious
Cobbett Prize the year before. The Times thought it, “did not build to a
satisfying whole”. But perhaps this misses the point. Seen in the
context of the English composer’s entire oeuvre, the work contains many
elements that would go on to define his singular genius.
Brahms was a particular influence on Britten, who claimed that, “at
the ages of 13 and 16 I knew every note of Beethoven and Brahms”. The
Piano Quartet No. 3 was written when Brahms was living with Clara
Schumann, helping her run the household while her husband, Brahms’
mentor Robert Schumann was in an asylum. It is ostensibly dedicated to
Goethe, and his character Werther, though it’s possible to detect
Johannes’ feelings for Clara amid the work’s swirling Romanticism.
Rounding out this intimate concert is French composer Francis
Poulenc’s extraordinary Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano. It’s an
unusual combination of instruments, however they sound perfectly
matched. Effortlessly melodic and witty, it is a perfect demonstration
of the composer’s distinct style.
These three beautiful works give an intriguing insight into their
composers’ internal reflections, and together make a rich and revealing
morning of music.