February 2015

Today’s Chamber Music Academy session saw students play in new and varied combinations. We also welcomed Mr Simon Rowland-Jones as tutor for the first time. Despite extensive refurbishment of the main corridor (a little extra sign-age required!) it was still possible to walk the length of it and hear the sounds of various tutorials in progress intermingling; slowly transmuting from octet, to sextet and down to quartet at the far end!

In the CP Hall two well-established Purcell quartets combined to play Mendelssohn’s Octet Op. 20 for the first time, under the expert direction of Mr Rowland-Jones. In such a thickly scored work it was important to tease out the important lines and match articulations, to ensure that each of Mendelssohn’s inventive motifs emerged from the texture with clarity.


Room 8 today was home to Brahms’ Sextet in G Major. The second of two string sextets written by the composer, this work presents the players with a complex interplay of duple and triple subdivisions of the beat. The inherent tension of such subdivisions working against each other lends the work much of its unsettled nature, but is also integral to its driving force. The challenges of putting it together for the first time were easily overcome with Mr Stewart’s expert guidance from the Viola 2 seat.


Some intensive work on Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2 was happening in the Library, with a new combination of pupils playing together as a quartet for the first time under the tutelage of Harriet Rayfield. At this stage in the course our violinists are getting the opportunity to experience the difference between the roles of Violin 1 and 2 through swapping roles. Also exploring this difference were the quartet playing Beethoven Op. 18, No. 4 with Nathaniel Vallois supervising, and later Mendelssohn Op. 12, No. 1 with Amy Furfaro. The Violin 2 role is perhaps necessarily one of the most versatile within the quartet, needing to adopt different hats from one moment to the next: at times part of the supporting ‘bass’ team of ‘cello and viola, at others an equal partner with the first violin, but always crucial to the central motor of a quartet. All this was being discussed within the context of Beethoven’s, Borodin’s and Mendelssohn’s rhetorical gestures and phrasing; the compositional tools which allow us to unlock the musical stories behind the dots on the page.

Susie Meszaros lead a broad-ranging overview of Mendelssohn Op. 44, No. 1 with the last of the quartets taking part today. The imagery and emotions she conjured, served as ample inspiration and direction for our youngest players.


Another first for today’s Chamber Music Academy was a piano trio. Cara Berridge lead the charge, exploring the differences in approach needed from the violin and ‘cello when playing with keyboard as opposed to other strings. Expression markings such as forte-piano, which are not really possible on the piano, suddenly require much more experimentation and discussion to find a sound solution that works for everyone. Playing with stringed instruments and the infinite array of articulations available to them, demands a very agile and inquiring approach on behalf of the pianist!


Photos © Chloe Hayes 2015