Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Hagen Quartet with Jörg Widmann - Brighton Festival at Glyndebourne

Credit: Harald Hoffman
I was greatly looking forward to this concert, as the Brahms Clarinet Quintet is probably my favourite chamber music work of all. The concert began however with Beethoven's String Quartet in A minor, Op. 130, with which I have to confess being less familiar. I felt the Hagen Quartet took a while to settle into the acoustic, with the balance not feeling quite right and a couple of surprising moments of intonation issues in the first movement. Once settled, however, the performance grew in intensity and drew the audience in, and by the protracted chorale variations of the third movement, I was captivated. Sadly, the performance was marred for me by a persistent snorer two seats away - throughout the whole quartet, pretty much. Thankfully (although somewhat surprisingly) the concert was only just over two thirds sold, and the staff were helpful in arranging alternative seats for the second half. 

© Marco Borggreve
Jörg Widmann joined for Brahms' Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115, and now the concert took flight for me. The Adagio literally brought tears to my eyes, as did the final return of the opening music at the end of the finale - this is such a bitter-sweet circular conclusion to a profoundly moving work. Widmann's playing was exquisitely sensitive and warm, and the Hagens blended beautifully - the ensemble can be a challenge in this work, with the clarinet sounding like an add-on, but not here.   And first violinist, Lukas Hagen brought some beautifully expressive touches, almost sounding improvisatory at times, in the variations of the finale.  Overall, this was a great first concert in the Brighton Festival for me - and lots more to come!

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