Wigmore Hall’s continuing digital programme is proving such a lifeline for chamber music and recitals at present. Members of the Nash Ensemble recorded their latest contribution in January, streamed for the first time last night, and the performances remain available on demand for the usual 30 days. 

The Nash Ensemble
© Wigmore Hall

First, they gave us Dvořák’s Piano Quartet no. 2 in E flat major. Written at the height of his success, it is a work of great invention, with not only a steady flow of melodic ideas, but also in its dramatic use of harmony and imaginative writing for both strings and piano. The Nash players grabbed hold of proceedings with the emphatic, arresting opening, and the distant key harmonies underpinning the string and piano exchanges that followed were full of mystery and expectation. The viola part looms large throughout, not least in the opening movement’s lyrical second subject, as well as in the rustic, folksy melody of the finale, and Lawrence Power embraced these moments to the full, as well as seemingly being the anchor of communication between the other players. Pianist Alasdair Beatson provided smoothly rippling momentum throughout, as well as lightness of touch, such as in the slow movement’s second melody, complemented here with a subtly quirky offbeat accompaniment from the strings. Adrian Brendel on cello gave the slow movement’s opening melody melancholic lyricism, and violinist Stephanie Gonley exuded energy and drive, particularly in the more frenzied moments of the opening Allegro con fuoco, and the turbulent second section of the Lento. This was a defiantly alive performance throughout, with tight ensemble and infectious intensity, right to its full-bodied finish.

The Nash Ensemble
© Wigmore Hall

Joined by Graham Mitchell (double bass), the Nash Ensemble players followed with an equally lively Trout Quintet. Right from the warm opening chords, the resonant bass underpinned Beatson’s emphatic arpeggios, then once up and running, the busy quavers and triplets in the inner parts kept out of the way of the violin and piano exchanges around them. The players took occasional subtle collective breathing spaces, and there was a little straightening out of some dotted rhythms in the piano part in the opening movement, but textures were clean throughout, avoiding any muddiness that the bass-heavy instrumentation can sometimes cause. The Scherzo had great attack and intensity, and the Trio, if momentarily a little hesitant, was bravely faithful to the bareness of the dynamics and texture. The Theme and Variations fourth movement was delivered with delicate poise, simply enjoying the unfolding of Schubert’s melody and varied accompaniment, with particularly liquid pianism from Beatson. Dynamics were once again expertly controlled, especially in the fifth variation, allowing for the final Allegretto to feel playful and full of bounce. Attention to detail was exceptional once again in the finale, with no accent or articulation ignored, and even when the textures were at their business, nothing was obscured. Overall, this was as joyful a Trout, without any unnecessary outstanding features, as one would want – nothing to get in the way of heartfelt delight in Schubert’s invention and the joy of chamber musicians making music together. 

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This performance was reviewed from the Wigmore Hall video stream

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