This "Illuminating Britten" concert grouped a series of short works by the composer and those whose work he admired, influenced or aided.
The emotional turbulence of Berg’s Four Pieces Op. 5, for Clarinet and Piano and his Adagio, for violin, clarinet and piano resonates in Britten’s sombre works, but he always followed his own tonal path.
Joanna Patton (clarinet) was excellent, by turns plangent and mordant, well supported by Malcolm Wilson (piano) and Alexandra Wood (violin).
The teenage Elegy for solo viola, played eloquently by Christopher Yates, and Going down Hill on a Bicycle (A Boy’s Song), for violin and piano, showed two sides of Britten, an intense melancholy and a sense of schoolboy fun, which persisted throughout his life, the latter evident in three pieces for violin and piano March, Lullaby and Waltz.
Wilson and Wood again excelled in Copland’s jazz-inflected Nocturne and his Ukulele Serenade which was a hoot –neither a serenade nor for ukulele and where the backwoods fiddler and bar-room pianist spend most of their time at odds.
Most illuminating was comparing Britten’s youthful Phantasy Quartet and Oliver Knussen’s Cantata Op. 15 – both for oboe and string trio – where the former is still searching for a distinctive voice whereas Knussen had found his.