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Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840): The Große Gehege near Dresden (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen).

Act like an aristocrat…

… and pay like a pauper.  Next Saturday make St Mary in the Castle your drawing room for the evening to listen to the most exquisite chamber music played by the best local talent that ‘musically sophisticated’ Hastings has to offer… all at the pauperly price of £10/£7 concessions, writes HOT’s Chris Cormack.

Francis Rayner (

Francis Rayner (piano) with the Hess Quartet and Susan Hutton (oboe) presents the first of the Brahms Plus Series – a series of concerts celebrating Brahms’s masterly chamber works, performed alongside a variety of chamber works by other great composers. Next Saturday evening’s programme includes Mozart’s Oboe Quartet in F major, K. 370, Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49, and is crowned with Brahms’  Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34.

In the early ’70s, led by the violinist father Jurgen Hess, the Hess family toured as a string quartet playing for about ten years in concerts all around Britain and Europe. The quartet has recently reformed by daughter Rachel Hess with her husband Andrew Laing and includes brother Ben Hess and his Anna Cooper. These have all had extensive freelance careers, playing with orchestras and companies such as The Royal Opera House Orchestra, BBC Radio Orchestra, London City Ballet, London Sinfonietta and The Royal Shakespeare Company.

Andrew Laing of the Hess Quartet.

By joining together a string quartet with a great pianist, Brahms’ piano quintet in F minor packs the punch of an orchestra with the virtuosity of five soloists – what better way to bring out the beauty and tenderness of Brahms’ ‘developing variation’ coupled with the ‘Sturm und Drang’ forcefulness which characterised his early career?

Brahms at thirty one years of age was reaching maturity in his music; this work was initially composed as a quintet for strings alone inspired by Schubert, but his friend, violinist Joseph Joachim, felt that strings were not the right medium for the work, so Brahms then turned it into a sonata for two pianos and then again, on Clara Schumann’s advice, into a piano quintet. The final version Joachim described as the finest new chamber music work published since Schubert and, it is generally accepted  as the finest example of Brahms’s great chamber music.

Brahms’ friend Robert Schumann described Felix Mendelssohn as ‘the Mozart of the 19th century, the most illuminating of musicians, who sees more clearly than others through the contradictions of our era and is the first to reconcile them.’ Easy to listen to, Mendelssohn is deceptively difficult to play but without the ‘physical torments’ of Schumann and Brahms which the audience more readily perceive. This concert piece is the first of the piano trios and dates from 1839. It is described as more graciously melodious and less concerned with harmonic complexity and contrapuntal devices.

Mozart’s Oboe Quartet might appear to  be half-concerto in the way it presents the oboist with scope for virtuoso display with string accompaniment, especially in the ‘Rondeau’ finale. But this belies the ensemble playing much in evidence with the melodic line moving easily between oboist and strings. It is scored for oboe, violin, viola and cello.

Francis Rayner (piano) with the Hess Quartet and Susan Hutton (oboe) presents Brahms, Mozart and Mendelssohn on Saturday 7 June at 7.30pm, doors open 6.45pm, at St Mary in the Castle, 7 Pelham Crescent, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 3A.

Tickets can be bought online or on the door: £10, or only £7 for students and over 65s. Under 14s go free with a paying adult.

Posted 22:07 Sunday, Jun 1, 2014 In: Music & Sound

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