Pettman Ensemble at St John’s Smith Square play Lilburn and Schumann

If you’re going to St John’s Smith Square for chamber music, be sure to sit in a seat in the first five rows. The acoustic – called upon for numerous landmark recordings – will deliver on its promise. Your proximity to the stage will mean you experience the visceral qualities of the music as though you were a performer yourself.

That said, if you do choose to sit that close, don’t for God’s sake take out a notebook and pen, and start making notes during the performance. Bad form.

The Pettman Ensemble – billed as ‘a flexible touring ensemble affiliated to the Pettman National Junior Academy of Music at the University of Auckland’ (my, that’s a mouthful) – consisted of Julia Park (viola), Benedict Lim (violin), Stephen De Pledge (piano), Edith Salzmann (cello), and Royal Academy of Music head of strings and former RPO leader Clio Gould (violin).

Lim – a slight, unassuming but conscientious performer – opened the concert with a rarely heard but strangely familiar sounding work by New Zealand composer Douglas Lilburn.

This was an unfussy performance that allowed a warm, rich and sonorous tone to shine. Some moments saw the solo line battle with the piano accompaniment, but Benedict was clearly at ease conjuring a range of colours and moods that belied his age.

Some top notes lacked commitment, but this remained an endearing introduction to a captivating work.

Schumann’s Piano Quintet Op.44 was a gloriously ebullient affair throughout. Exquisite, sometimes heartbreaking moments followed in the second movement with electrifying tremolandos from Lim. This was the turning point in the performance. Smiles abounded on stage. Reverie followed.

A ravishing lunchtime treat from a hard-working hungry bunch of musicians.

 

 

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