Tuesday 15 January 2008

Bach, Grime and Brahms

Just back from the UK premiere of Helen Grime's Into the Faded Air, in our Cambridge lunchtime concert. There is some splendidly luscious writing; an extended duet for two violas dominating the second movement; a chord of inspired richness at the end of the third; and - in Helen's own description - a 'serene chorale' at the end of the final short movement.
The most commonly reproduced photos of Brahms tend to be of him at the end of his life, with long hair and a profuse beard. Here is one of him in 1860, the year after he wrote his String Sextet no. 1. As our viola player Clare Finnimore said in her spoken introduction to the concert, this piece does not get many public airings, though string players love getting together to play it at home. Bach was a huge influence on Brahms (the concert today opened with the Ricercar a 6), and I am indebted to my friend (and Britten Sinfonia's chief programme note writer!), Jo Kirkbride, for pointing out one of Brahms' favourite sayings: 'Study Bach! There you'll find everything.' The Sextet goes further than this, with Schubert, Beethoven and CPE Bach all audible in the texture.

You can still catch this concert in London tomorrow (Wigmore Hall at 1.00pm), in Norwich on Thursday (The Assembly House at 1.00pm), and in Birmingham on Friday (Town Hall at 1.00pm): full details are here.

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