THE renowned Primrose Piano Quartet were the guests of Kendal Midday Concert Club, writes CLIVE WALKLEY.

The group was formed in 2004 by its pianist, John Thwaites. Alongside their performances of major repertoire, the group has uncovered long-neglected music by 20th century English composers, and music by contemporary composers frequently features in their programmes.

For this occasion they chose to present two pieces from the standard repertoire: Brahm’s dark-hued Piano Quartet in C minor and Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E flat. The two works compliment each other in many ways: both share the same key signature; but Brahms explores the dark side of his chosen key in turbulent textures while Schumann uses the major key work to explore the sunny side of E flat.

The failure of the heating system in the town hall, the customary venue for these concerts, resulted in a last minute change of venue to nearby Kendal Parish Church. The church acoustic, very different from that of the town hall, resulted in a certain loss of clarity in fast moving passage work; however, this was certainly not the fault of the performers. And the music lost something of its intimate feel in the large space of the church; nevertheless, there was much to enjoy.

From Brahms’ dramatic opening chords, it was clear that this was going to be a performance that would release all the angst running through so much of this work; but it has moments of calm when Brahms launches into his expansive melodies, and the grandeur and lyrical beauty of these shone through in the playing.

Brahms’ dense piano writing can pose problems for pianists in a chamber music setting, but the balance of the three stringed instruments with the piano was well maintained throughout.

Among the many characteristics of Schumann’s Piano Quartet is the brilliance of his piano writing, so easily dispatched, it seemed, in the playing of John Thwaites. The scherzo has a Mendelssohnian fairy-like texture which was brought off with lightness and delicacy; and then there is the glorious melody which dominate the slow movement, played so expressively by the strings. Finally, the combination of Romantic and Baroque in the last movement when Schumann takes a backward glance at Bach in his fugal writing which he skilfully brings together with more lyrical passages. All these qualities drew our admiration for the work itself, and the performance we heard; and it was obvious from the audience’s enthusiastic response that, in spite of the change of venue, this had been a concert much enjoyed by all.