McCabe opens Cratfield concerts

Sacconi Quartet/John McCabe, Cratfield Church, July 12 The new season of chamber music concerts at Cratfield opened with two concerts over one weekend, both featuring the distinguished pianist and composer, John McCabe.

Sacconi Quartet/John McCabe, Cratfield Church, July 12

The new season of chamber music concerts at Cratfield opened with two concerts over one weekend, both featuring the distinguished pianist and composer, John McCabe. On Saturday, he gave a piano recital, and on Sunday he joined the Sacconi Quartet in a performance of his own piano quintet, "The Woman by the Sea".

The Sacconi are one of the best of the many young string quartets around these days. Indeed, they seem to get better every time one hears them. Certainly, their performance of Beethoven's A Minor quartet, Opus 132 showed playing of great commitment and a true understanding of the music, even if occasionally one could have wished for a richer sound.

Five movements from Bach's Art of Fugue made an unusual opening to their recital, but, immaculately performed in period style with the transposition for strings highlighting the textures beautifully, it provided the perfect contrast to what followed: John McCabe's piano quintet, "The Woman by the Sea".


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If McCabe's early works were sometimes somewhat austere, his mature compositions have been more approachable. The inspiration for the piano quintet of 2001 derives from an image in a 1950's film by the Japanese director, Mizoguchi: that of an old woman, long separated from her children, living by thr sea in an old shack and calling to them in vain across the ocean.

The work is in one continuous movement, with McCabe treating piano and strings separately for much of the time, yet the scoring is wonderfully atmospheric. Though hearing it for the first time, the playing of both the composer and the Sacconi made it compelling listening.

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Frank Cliff

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