Melodic Inspiration: Instruments of Time and Truth
Review: Instruments of Time and Truth Summer Concert Series, at Christ Church Cathedral, from 28 June - 2 August 2022. Tickets £15, Concessions available, Free to under 26s. Book tickets here.
[Disclosure: IT&T provided me with a ticket to this concert for the purposes of this review.]
Melodic Inspiration, IT&T’s third concert in its Summer Series, was a celebration of the refined elegance of Mozart’s (1756-1791) chamber music. The programme was simple; featuring two of Mozart’s greatest chamber compositions - the Flute Quartet in D major K. 285 and the String Quintet in C major K.515. As has become a feature of this concert series, each piece was warmly introduced by the musicians.
Flautist, Jonathan Slade introduced the Flute Quartet by giving us some background of the composition of the piece; explaining that it was written during Mozart’s 5 month stay in Mannheim in 1777-1778.
I took this photo straight after the concert - it's the view from the main entrance of Christ Church Cathedral - where all the concerts in this series are performed.
Slade also told us a little bit about the Baroque flute – which is made of wood and, unlike modern flutes, only has a single key. The single key, Slade explained, means that certain key signatures can be difficult to play on a Baroque flute, but D major, the key of the Flute Quartet, is perfectly suitable.
A letter Mozart wrote to his father from Mannheim in February 1788, shows the difficulties Mozart had in composing the Flute Quartet. Mozart complained that there were too many distractions during the day to concentrate on composing, and that he didn’t like the flute in any event.*
Despite these challenges, Mozart’s Flute Quartet sounds like a love letter to the flute. To me the piece feels almost like a chamber concerto – the flute’s elegant melodies soar above the quartet of strings’ restrained accompaniment. I particularly loved the evocative second movement, with Slade’s haunting playing floating through the Cathedral heights. It’s so beautiful, I’ve embedded it here (though not played by Slade) so you can enjoy it too.
This recording of the second movement, Adagio, of Mozart's Flute Quartet is played on a Baroque flute by Karel Valter, but I prefer Slade's performance, it was more mysterious and evocative.
The second piece in the programme, Mozart’s String Quintet K. 515, was lovingly introduced by violinist Jean Paterson. It is this obvious enthusiasm that helps the audience forge a real connection to the performance and makes the pieces come alive. Paterson explained that she loves to play the String Quintet because, with the addition of the extra viola to take the strings from a quartet to a quintet, new textures and interesting melodic pairings between the instruments become possible. Paterson told us that it’s a wonderful piece to play with a group of friends.
This concert was the first time I’d heard the String Quintet live and with period instruments, and it was such a treat to hear the viola in a new way. When released from its usual role of providing the mid tone body of harmonic support, it’s lovely to hear the melodic contribution a viola can actually make!
This concert was pure pleasure; an expression of elegant simplicity that only the highest art can achieve.
The Cavatina Chamber Music Trust is providing free tickets for all concerts in this series to under 26s. This meant that the audience for this concert was beautifully diverse – what a joy it was to see people of all ages enjoying this beautiful music. The only way ensembles like Instruments of Time and Truth will have a future is if young people develop a taste for the serene luxury that is listening to live period ensembles – so thank you Cavatina Chamber Music Trust for helping to sure up the future of this genre.
Except as otherwise stated, all photos provided to me by Instruments of Time and Truth. Feature photo shows the musicians at rehearsal for the concert.
*The Letters of Mozart & His Family, Vol. 2, edited by Emily Anderson, Macmillan, 1938, page 711.