Quintets at Twilight was the title of a concert in the Adam Room at Shrewsbury’s Lion Hotel, presented by Shropshire Music Trust. The musicians were members of Innovation Ensemble, every one of them highly esteemed chamber players. There were two works, Bruckner’s only quintet and Mozart’s third in C major.
Bruckner wrote his quintet between 1887 and 1889 in response to insistent requests from an important Viennese violinist. Bruckner was far better known as a composer of symphonies-mostly of epic proportions. In fact, he was working on his 4th, 5th and 6th symphonies although it pre-echoes his mighty 7th symphony. The concert could equally well have been called “Epic to Intimacy” for this work was of truly epic proportions; in the opening movement there was a slight unease before the players were fully in their stride but the exquisite slow movement showed them at their finest. Cellist Richard Jenkinson-often a welcome visitor to Shrewsbury-played his part to perfection, ably joined by violinists Ben Nabarro and Martin Cropper and viola players Robin Ireland and Sarah-Jane Bradley. This movement has been arranged for string orchestra and, in that form, shows why Bruckner was most at home with the symphony.
Mozart was a composer comfortable in every genre and the last five of his six string quintets are works of genius. The C major opens with the first violin and cello giving us some lovely interchanges which go through a series of key changes, retaining the beautiful lyrical nature of the work. It may have been written for the cello-playing King of Prussia who enjoyed performing for his court. The delight of all five musicians was obvious from the opening moments of the lengthy first movement to the sublime Menuetto Allegretto. The duet between first violin and first viola was glorious before we were treated to the finale, a high -spirited romp which often tricks us into believing that it is about to finish. This was a lovely performance a fine example of Mozart’s most intimate music making.