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Review: Joy caught by quintet

Updated: Jun 14, 2020

CONCERT REVIEW James Campbell with NZ String Quartet Theatre Royal, Saturday, May 17

Allan Purdy    /    Taranaki Daily News, New Plymouth

Immaculate rapport between Canadian clarinettist James Campbell and the New Zealand String Quartet, playing sublime quintets by Weber and Mozart, made this second concert in Chamber Music New Zealand’s Kaleidoscopes series a joyous occasion.

Campbell’s friendly introduction referred to Weber’s style as “opera buffa” – a wonderful mix of happy melodies and virtuosic display with the players obviously enjoying making music together. Unbelievably soft tone, an athletic Menuetto and amazingly nimble passages in the Rondo displayed a master musician in his element.

Violist Gillian Ansell explained Brahms’ delight in playful juxtaposition of differing rhythmic groups before the quartet gave a consummate performance of his Quartet in B flat.

They created a glowing moonlight mood in the Andante and made the most of Brahms’ inventiveness in the final movement, all four players revelling in their moments of interest. A bonus item, Data Entry Groove by young New Zealand composer Natalie Hunt provided light entertainment, with swing-style cello pizzicato, while the other players took “workplace microbreaks” complete with stretching exercises.

Quintessential has to be the word for the ensemble’s performance of Mozart’s Quintet for Clarinet and Strings.

Campbell has probably played this hundreds of times, but his amber honey tone throughout, the exquisite Larghetto with muted strings, a Menuetto with all the grace of an 18th century ballroom and a fun-filled finale brought freshness and absolute delight to our ears.

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