Music at Paxton reaches a great crescendo

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The second part of Music at Paxton, beginning on Thursday, was marked by a return of the Edinburgh Quartet in a diverse selection of challenging works.

After the cheerful ease of Haydn’s Joke Quartet, Shostakovich’s 8th Quartet introduced a start emotional reminder of the dark days of World War II, especially the bombing of Dresden. Here the players were at their most intense with superb drama and ensemble. They were joined by Maximiliano Martín in Brahms’ elegiac Clarinet Quintet.

The next night the Italian pianist Alessandro Taverna displayed a consummate technique in four pieces by composers who were themselves virtuosi of the piano. In Beethoven’s Eroica Variations he balanced the serious contrapuntal character of the writing with a clearly more relaxed, even frivolous, treatment of the well- known theme. Four preludes by Rachmaninov exploited the whole gamut of the keyboard, later evident in Lizst’s Venezia e Napoli. Taverna concluded his evening with the fireworks of three movements from Stravinsky’s ballet Petrouchka.

Saturday was devoted to the music of the Baroque period. Following an informative, spontaneous talk on the Bach family, the harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani presented a concert with the violinist Bojan Čičić of two sonatas, one by Johann Sebastian Bach, the other by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel.

For the last concert on Sunday, we were treated to the luxury of no fewer than six string players from the Scottish Ensemble. They opened with Richard Strauss’s late Romantic Sextet from Capriccio, followed by the poignant Crisantemi by Puccini. An exuberant sextet by Boccherini proved an unexpected pleasure for all. The highlight of the evening was Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence. It opened with an explosive gusto of relentless energy that characterised the approach of this excellent group and represented a truly appropriate joyous climax for ten days of uplifting performances.