REVIEW: New arts festival begins with a sparkling concert

From left: Lucy Jeal (violin), Andrew Thurgood (violin), Matthew Quenby (viola), Caroline Tyler (piano), Anna Cooper (viola), Sarah Carvalho-Dubost (cello) and Pavlos Carvalho (cello). Picture by Melvyn Walmsley
From left: Lucy Jeal (violin), Andrew Thurgood (violin), Matthew Quenby (viola), Caroline Tyler (piano), Anna Cooper (viola), Sarah Carvalho-Dubost (cello) and Pavlos Carvalho (cello). Picture by Melvyn Walmsley

Ensemble Reza with Caroline Tyler, Holy Trinity Church, Cuckfield, Saturday, June 24

An ambitious programme, performed with energy and smooth precision by the sure-fingered Caroline Tyler (piano) and Ensemble Reza’s quicksilver strings, gave the ambitious Cuckfield Arts Festival a memorable, musical launch.

The opening piece, Webern’s Langsamer Satz for string quartet, is from his early Romantic phase.

Lucy Jeal and Andrew Thurgood (violins), Anna Cooper (viola) and Sarah Carvalho-Dubost (cello) painted summer zephyrs sighing through reeds by a gently rippling lake.

This prepared us for the relaxed mood of the final poco allegro movement of Brahms’s second Sextet, its initial emotional storms calmed. That ended the programme, with Matthew Queny (viola) and Pavlos Carvalho (cello) completing an ensemble whose polished teamwork leaves room for the composer, free from over-interpretation.

Their choice for a brief, hushed encore – Schubert’s simple, exquisite Prayer – encapsulated a musical journey uniting three great, different composers through inventive intellectual form blended with thoughts and feelings too deep for words.

Webern and Brahms framed a classical masterpiece by Mozart which, with echoes of his operatic themes and a singing tone, also reconciles heart and head.

Caroline Tyler had written cadenzas, with this programme in mind, for his Piano Concerto no. 22, arranged by Ignaz Lachner for string quintet.

Knowing that this telepathic team needed no direction from the keyboard, Caroline treated us to her smooth yet scintillating pianism, effortlessly suggesting the jauntiness of a coach ride through an enchanted forest in spring. Nor did she and her mini-orchestra underplay the dark, turbulent waters that Mozart, like Papageno on a surfboard, always loved to soar over.

So we saw and heard the Brahms in Webern, foretastes of Romanticism in Mozart and mature Brahms experimenting with counterpoint.

This was joyful and sparkling music making. Ideal for a bright new festival with a big, appreciative audience.

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