What could the initials Z R I possibly mean to the average music enthusiast? To those in the know it means the pub of the Red Hedgehog as found in Vienna in the time of Brahms and Schubert. This lively group of musicians treated us some years back to their impression of the music that Brahms would heard in the pub, amazingly combined with a moving rendition of the quintet for clarinet and strings.
This time it was to feature the music of Schubert and in particular his quintet for strings. It certainly paid to have a good familiarity with this wonderful late work in order to appreciate the subtlety of Jon Banks’ arrangements for his forces which consisted of violin, cello, clarinet, accordion and santouri – a form of dulcimer . An intriguing combination of wild, kletzmer melody with written out improvisations, took off as we left Schubert’s score sometimes quite abruptly but oftentimes very subtly . Star of these moments was their spokesman,Ben Harlan who danced around as he played his clarinet and contributed a jazzy element to the music.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was when Matthew started to sing in his lovely bass voice, ‘der Leirmann (the last song of Schubert’s ‘Winterreise’ collection) while playing his cello. Max also gave heartfelt outpourings on his violin. Jon on accordion and Iris on the santouri provided an exotic harmonic backdrop to all this. Deeply moving.. The audience were clearly elated by the wit of this music and the passion with which it was performed . These deeply contrasting passages seemed to have a parallel in the weather when heavy showers alternated with sunny periods .
We asked ourselves which composer would next be treated in this amazing fashion !