at St John Baptist, Danbury
An intriguingly eclectic programme for the keynote concert of this year's Festival, the fourth celebrating the work of this 20th Century Essex composer.
The central work is Armstrong Gibbs String Quartet in G Minor, known as Kenilworth. It dates from his wartime exile in the Lakes, and has a very English feel, especially in the folk-inspired Vivace. Echoes of Elgar in the Lento, shades of RVW in the finale, where the Maestoso theme is re-stated. Played with passion and insight by Robert Atchison and David Jones from the London Piano Trio [the go-to-guys for Gibbs chamber works], with Jacqueline Hartley, violin, and Bill Hawkes, viola.
The programme ended with an energetic reading of Dvorak's much-loved Second Piano Quintet [Olga Dudnik at the piano], but it began with something much more arcane – 1919, by Ryuichi Sakamoto: six movements from his album 1996, for Piano Trio. Pretty certain I wasn't alone in not knowing what to expect. Turned out to be very enjoyable versions of his melodious movie minimalist hits, including Oscar-winning Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Rain, from The Last Emperor, and The Sheltering Sky, with haunting romantic lines for the strings.
This year's Festival has also featured Tea With Dr Gibbs [with soprano and pianoforte], a new eco-opera for children, a book launch and a Flute and Piano recital by Kia Bennett and Tim Carey, including a Suite by Armstrong Gibbs, two of his piano postcards from the Lake District, and a substantial sonata by the “English Rachmaninov”, Gibbs' contemporary Edwin York Bowen.
Two years to wait for the next Festival in Danbury, but you can hear Tim and Kia's programme again this Friday, 26 September, in a lunchtime concert at St Thomas, Brentwood.