The Maggini String Quartet with Robert Plane and Stephen Stirling

19:30 on Tuesday, 15th February 2011

Formed in 1988 the quartet continues to have huge national and international success having played in many concert halls around the world. They came to Skipton in 2004 and return with Robert Plane and Stephen Stirling to add a further dimension to their music making.

The Maggini Quartet – Susanne Stanzeleit and David Angel (violins), Martin Outram (viola) and Michal Kaznowski (cello) – has a fine reputation at home and abroad. Last here in 2004, they were welcomed back, together with Robert Plane (clarinet) and Stephen Stirling (French horn), for Skipton Music’s February concert on Tuesday evening.

Beethoven's Quartet Op.18, No.3 formed a classic opening work – a poetic start, violins moving delicately over the lower strings’ gentle harmony, an apparently relaxed, lyrical Andante, a lively Allegro and exciting Presto, with demanding dynamics, especially for the hushed closure.

We moved to lesser-known repertoire – appropriately, as the group's northern tour is supported by The John Ireland Trust - to John Ireland's Sextet, a teen-age work which, Robert Plane told us, did not impress his composition teacher. Some sixty years later, Ireland was persuaded to dust it down for an appearance on the concert platform. The unusual instrumental ensemble, with clear Brahmsian hints, requires the sensitive interpretation which it received. The audience, a first hearing for many, showed warm appreciation.

After the interval came the unimpressed teacher Stanford's Fantasy for Horn and String Quartet, another rare combination, but in which the players were clearly at home. The five sections cohere successfully in what the programme hailed as 'one of the hidden gems of late Romantic chamber music.'

Weber excelled in writing for the clarinet. His Clarinet Quintet, Op.34, is virtually a mini-concerto. Dance-like, controlled, playful and lilting in turn, with some athletic fingering and breathtaking runs, it brought the evening to a climactic end, relished by all and sending the clarinetists among us home determined to do some practice.

Douglas Riddiough