The hallmark of the Fibonacci Sequence’s performances (the technical command and virtuosity of all its members and their impeccably tight ensemble hardly need stressing) is their natural, unforced musicality and stylistic rightness, whatever the music. Natural — but that does not mean thoughtless. Tempi, phrasing, textural light and shade have clearly always been intelligently thought out and then subsumed in the sheer pleasure of music-making.
Natural also does not mean conventional; least of all in programme-planning. What other group would begin a concert with Fauré songs with piano, include a major chamber work by a forgotten British woman composer — Adela Maddison — and finish with a Mozart piano concerto? It worked brilliantly; and not least again because of carefully thought-out connections: the Fauré songs were followed by two by Adela Maddison, who had been Fauré’s student (and maybe lover), and the connection between piano-accompanied song and chamber music for piano and strings was assured by the inclusion of Chausson’s beautiful and rarely-heard Chanson perpetuelle for mezzo-soprano and piano quintet.
Yvonne Howard sang with welcome firmness and radiance of tone and intensity of feeling — not often heard in French (or French-inspired) repertoire, even though there is so much more to Fauré, or Maddison, (or Debussy himself, for that matter) than wispy, withdrawn impressionism — though in the first few songs her low notes were slightly covered by Kathron Sturrock’s otherwise sensitive and colourful accompaniment.
Adela Maddison’s large-scale four-movement Piano Quintet turned out to be much more than a curiosity, to be brought out of the bottom drawer and hastily put back. The technique of linking one idea with the next is not her strongest suit, but the ideas themselves are vivid and expressive and she was able to integrate great harmonic variety — chromatic, octatonic, pentatonic, modal — into a personal language.
Kathron Sturrock played in every piece in the programme, yet sounded as fresh in the concluding Mozart concerto, K415 in C, as in the first song. It is a mistake to talk, as commentators have done, about Mozart’s ‘condensation’, ‘arrangement’ or ‘reduction’ of the three concerti, K413, 414 and 415, for piano with string quartet. Mozart did not rewrite anything in these works, but said in a letter to his father that the concerti had been so scored that the wind parts could be left out and the works played with ‘quartet’. In the earlier Classical period, this meant ‘four string parts’, not specifically two violins, viola and ’cello, and there were moments when I wondered whether a double bass, and perhaps some occasional chordal continuo-playing by the soloist in the tuttis, might have given some of the forte passages more incisiveness. But Kathron Sturrock’s ability to scale her playing of the solo part to the 4-piece band while never leaving one in doubt that this is a brilliant concerto and not a piece of chamber music made this a marvellous performance, scintillating, poetic, strong; and the choice of this particular concerto out of the three, with a finale that, unusually, has a recurring slow episode and piano ending, brought the end of the concert back to the intimacy of its beginning.
Michael Graubart, 23.4.2007.