Upstaging the Quartet

Early next year Endymion will be exploring some fantastic chamber works with two concerts in January 2012 focussing on Quintets. Far from being the “fifth wheel” at the chamber music party, the Quintet will be taking centre stage to prove that the harmony and balance of the four-person Quartet is not the only way to true musical elegance.

Endymion performing Mozart's Clarinet Quintet at Kings Place in 2009

Endymion’s first concert is on 20th January at King’s Place in London, where we’ll be indulging in an all-Brahms programme, performing his two String Quintets and his Clarinet Quintet. Both String Quintets are scored for an extra viola (rather than an extra cello), leading to a warm sound-palette which is complemented by some typically Brahmsian harmonies and modulations, especially in the first movement of String Quintet No.1. By the time Brahms began writing his first String Quintet (reportedly his favourite chamber work) in 1882, he had left some of the classical sobriety of the two famous String Sextets of the 1860s behind him. Instead, we find a clever and high-spirited Romantic take on some well-known Baroque forms, such as the Sarabande and Fugue. The second String Quintet calls on some of the same folksy rhythms and melodies as his friend Antonín Dvorák, albeit always with Germanic shading. Brahms came out of retirement especially in order to write the Clarinet Quintet for the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld, along with a Trio and two Sonatas, and it is often considered Brahms’ greatest work for chamber ensemble. Tickets for the concert are on sale here.

We’ve also been invited back to the University of Surrey in Guildford after our successful Mahler concert in July. On 29th January we’ll be performing an afternoon concert at 3pm of three Clarinet Quintets by Brahms, Mozart and Philip Venables. Mozart’s famous work was one of the very first written for that instrument combination, establishing the Clarinet in the chamber music repertoire, and undoubtedly forming a model for Brahms’ own Quintet a century later. Originally written for the basset clarinet, it has become one of the most popular chamber works of the last few centuries through its simple and joyous lyricism and faultless structural elegance. The Prelude by Philip Venables, written in 2006 (the 250th Anniversary of Mozart’s birth) for the Sounds New MozartNOW Festival in Canterbury in 2006, is indeed a prelude to Mozart quintet’s itself. Dissecting, manipulating and elaborating on the first two bars of Mozart’s quintet, Venables explores not only Mozart’s work but also the Clarinet quintet medium in a thoroughly absorbing fashion.

We’re also looking forward to coaching some of the students in Guildford on 31st January.