skip to Main Content

Utterly beguiling

The Westmorland Gazette, Ian Jones

KENDAL Town Hall may not be the Wigmore Hall but who needs the metropolis when we have the Kendal Midday Concert Club experience throughout the autumn and winter?

Another magnificent season ended with music making of the highest calibre from the Castalian Quartet in Haydn’s ‘Quinten’ String Quartet and then, joined by Robert Plane, in the wonderful Clarinet Quintet by Brahms.

Both these works come from late in their composers’ lives when their music had long achieved full maturity. Haydn had another decade to live during which time he wrote his finest settings of the Mass for soloists, chorus and orchestra. Brahms for his part believed his composing years were over until he heard the magnificent and inspiring playing of the clarinettist Richard Muhlfeld. Both composers lived through times of civil and military unrest and yet have left us a legacy of music which can even now take us beyond the tragedies and turmoils of life to somewhere sane, calm and reflective. This a packed house experienced to the full at the hands of these wonderful performers. Ever the witty and inventive composer Haydn, in this late quartet, displays these qualities to the full and the Castalians made the most of them.

Wonderful ensemble playing, lyrical first violin melodies supported by utterly sensitive lower parts, vigorously deft and energetic playing when required and an astonishing dynamic range characterised the first movement. After that the gentle balm of the second movement with its subtle use of rubato and strikingly accented chords came as a welcome contrast and led us gently into the vigorous canon of the Minuet and the fusion of all the quartet’s moods in the Finale. The total commitment of all four players was obvious throughout.

Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet is one of the loveliest examples of the genre and when played as it was by Robert Plane and the Castalian Quartet is utterly beguiling. Immediately noticeable was the warmth of string tone so necessary and so characteristic of this music from a century later than the Haydn quartet. But here was no mini-clarinet concerto: the five instruments were totally integrated and played as one with great sympathy and shared emotion. Still, of course, the individual instrumental characteristics were evident: the warm tender suppleness of the string playing, rich cello and viola lower tones and elegiac violins set beside the liquid bubbling clarinet. This was especially evident in the lovely Adagio second movement.

The simultaneous contrast and closeness of major and minor keys was a feature of both works in this wonderful concert and it would be hard to think of a more fitting conclusion to a wonderful season of concerts taking place at a time of great tragedy and turmoil in the wider world than the closing bars of the Brahms quintet.

Here was music which must have made this audience, like Orsino, feel its ‘dying fall’ and wish for ‘excess of it’.
Thank you Robert Plane, the Castalians and KMCC for a rare experience!


Photo credit: Sara Porter

You may also like to see...
Plane has magisterial control of his instrument

British Music Society, Geoffrey Atkinson

They’re real gems

BBC Radio 3 Record Review, Andrew McGregor

Best Re-Issue

Classic FM, David Mellor

Wistful beauty

The Times, Anna Picard

Afternoon Concert
Very smooth and subtle and deeply musical

BBC Radio 3, Kate Molleson

Unleashed with a controlled power by these fine musicians

The Scotsman, Susan Nickalls

Robert Plane
Threw himself into his athletic lines with glee and abandon
Plane’s tireless virtuosity

The Guardian, Rian Evans

Robert Plane Contrasts - Impressions Of Hungary
It's a little gem

The Guardian, Erica Jeal 

Robert Plane
A Perfect Partnership at the Ilkley Concert Club

Sacconi Quartet and Robert Plane at the King’s Hall, Chris Skidmore

Robert Plane gives a very fine reading [of Finzi Clarinet Concerto] for Naxos

From “Which is the best recording of Finzi’s Clarinet Concerto?” by Patrick Rucker, 14th July 2016

Robert Plane, Philip Dukes and Huw Watkins – unerring control

The Guardian, Rian Evans

A perfect balance of structural exactitude and lyricism – Gould Trio with clarinettist Robert Plane

The Guardian, Rian Evans

Older Reviews
Delectable soloist

International Record Review

Plane's readings are superb




Lyrical sweeps of phrasing in an immaculate performance

BBC, Andrew McGregor 

Back To Top