THE STRAD

“This was the first of three Strauss anniversary concerts planned by the London International Players, a flexible chamber ensemble with members drawn from the Menuhin School and IMS Prussia Cove summer music seminar. In Strauss’ Metamorphosen (arranged by Rudolf Leopold for string septet) the players were subdued at first and, even though they produced a plush sound, the peaks and troughs – which, in some performances can admittedly induce motion sickness – were rather flattened out. 

Helen Sherman was the rich-toned mezzo-soprano in Wagner’s Wesendonck Leider, with the strings depicting an idyllic celestial ascent in ‘Der Engel’, a warm embrace at the end of the ‘Stehe Still!’ and sumptuous dark sighing in ‘Im Triebhaus’.

The emotional intensity of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht came fully to bear in the ensembles performance of its sextet version, after setting the scene in trembling, hesitant moonlit wood. Throughout there was a palpable sense of communication and spontaneity across the various ensembles groupings, and an unmistakable passion in for playing together. This was also clear in Till Eulenspiegel Einmal Anders! Franz Hasenöhrl’s ingenious distillation of Strauss’ tone poem which was rendered in vivid colours, brilliantly placed and combining striking individual virtuosity with chamber-like collegiality.”

by Edward Bihesania

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MUSICAL OPINION

London International Players launch Wigmore Hall Showcase Recitals 

Outlined in the last issue of musical Opinion, the new series of Lunchtime Recitals at Wigmore Hall presented by Lisa Peacock Concert Management got off to a truly outstanding start on September 19th by the London International Players (Ana de la Vega (flute), Daniel Rohn (violin), Ruth Gibson (viola), Ashok Klouda (cello) Irina Botan (piano) and Martino Panizza (harp)), in a programme whose four works, for varied instrumental combinations, were exceptionally well chosen. Each of these performances was out of the top drawer; opening with a wonderful account of Mozart’s Flute Quartet No. 1 in D Major k.285 – the perfect beginning to a memorable programme. 

Mahler’s single-movement Piano Quartet in A minor was worlds away, instrumentally and compositionally, this being given a genuine performance of no little musical understanding, wholly convincing throughout. 

A further change of gear brought Bax’s Elegiac Trio for flute viola and harp (curiously, the identical instrumental combination to Debussy’s contemporaneous Sonata – is there an extra-musical connection between them?), not wholly from the composers top drawer, but none the less a beautifully-composed score, splendidly projected – and to end Mendelssohn’s great D minor Piano Trio Opus 49 – with the first movement repeat – a truly fine performance rounding a most uplifting programme, sending the large audience out to the London afternoon in the best possible frame of mind.

Robert Matthew-Walker

Cadogan Hall – London International Players

Readers may recall the editor’s enthusiastic welcome to the first of the Wigmore Hall Thursday Lunchtime Showcase Concerts in the last issue of Musical Opinion, given by the London International Players, and this follow-up programme at Cadogan Hall on November 8 merited a similarly positive response. Only one work, it appears – Bax’s Elegiac Trio – was common to both programmes, that at Cadogan Hall being enhanced and made particularly interesting by the inclusion of well-known and little-known works. The former were represented by Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, given with tremendous élan and rhythmic vitality in the outer movements (the long solo keyboard section in the first movement correctly kept up to tempo, for once, splendidly taken by Clare Hammond) and Britten’s Simple Symphony in the relatively rarely-given version for solo string quintet.

The Britten, an endlessly attractive work (touching deeper emotions in the slow movement) sounded absolutely first-class in this venue’s rich and flattering acoustic, but for many the relatively early chamber work of Vaughan Williams – his Piano Quintet in C minor, only released for performance in the last dozen years (it dates from 1903) – will have come as a welcome surprise. It is still an unknown masterpiece, yet it shows the composer in full command on his material and knowing exactly how it should be structured. Clearly, the belief of London International Players was almost tangible in this work, which should surely enter the repertoire before too long. Arvo Pårt’s Fratres exists in several versions, and has already become a relatively familiar item in modern programmes, and never fails to exert its unique fascination – as it did on this occasion – and Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits afforded an opportunity for Ana de la Vega to reveal her notable artistry in a purely solo piece. A most satisfying programme, excellently performed throughout.

James Palmer 

Planet Hugill – Concert Review

The London International Players are a newly formed chamber ensemble of young musicians who got to know each other at the Menhuin School and at IMS Prussia Cove. They made their Wigmore Hall debut on Thursday 19 September at a lunchtime concert, presenting a varied programme of music by Mozart, Mahler, Bax and Mendelssohn. Founded by flautist Ana de la Vega, the group consists of de la Vega, violinist Daniel Roth, violist Ruth Gibson, cellist Ashok Klouda, pianist Irina Botan and harpist Martino Panizza.

The opened with Mozart’s Flute Quartet no. 1 in D major D 285, one of a pair written for a wealthy Dutch amateur flautist. Played by Rohn, Gibson, Klouda and de la Vega, with a full bodied sound and a lively tone in the strings. The opening Allegro set the tone, with de la Vega’s flute set off in quasi-concerto manner. De la Vega displayed some nice even passage-work, brought out the piece’s civilised charm. The Adagio brought some limpid beauty from the flute, accompanied by pizzicato strings. The final Rondeau was a lively piece played with a nice degree of dash. Though the flute was spotlit, the other players seized their moment and you sensed a collegiality.

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“outstanding… out of the top drawer”
Musical Opinion

“abundantly clear… beautifully coloured”
Robert Hugill

“a truly fine performance”
Robert Matthew-Walker

“The group’s performance rightly drew enthusiastic applause from the audience.”
Robert Hugill

“Ana de la Vega led an affectionate performance, with a nice transition between the tender Adagio, which assumed the qualities of an aria, and the frothy finale, its cheeky second theme enjoyed by violinist Daniel Röhn.”
Ben Hogwood

“de la Vega, Gibson and Panizza clearly relished the work’s sound world and brought out its sense of elegant melancholy.”
Robert Hugill

“….keen and vivid performance, and very involving with a clear feel for Mendelssohn’s music.”
Robert Hugill