classical music

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The Independent Culture
Music from France has long had a special place in the programmes of the Wigmore Hall. Even so, the coming week's series will have had devotees of turn-of-the-century instrumental music salivating in anticipation for months. "Eugne Ysae and his friends" owes its name to a great Belgian violinist who also composed, but the point here is the musical feast that his playing inspired. French chamber music went through a creative explosion from 1870, when composers such as Saint-Sans and Franck got their followers together to counteract the current dominance of opera in the Parisian musical scene - and Ysae, living from 1858 to 1931, was at the heart of it.

Each day from tomorrow until next Saturday brings at least one concert, all of them stuffed with treats. Take the first night, which peaks with the tumultuously romantic Concerto for violin, piano and string quartet that Chausson dedicated to Ysae - here the series' artistic director Philippe Graffin plays the lead violin part, joined by the Chilingirian Quartet. If that isn't enough, pianists Jeremy Menuhin and Pascal Devoyon perform the outrageously funny send-ups of Wagner that Faur and Messager wrote together after going to Bayreuth, and there's a Faur piano quintet as well as a short piece by Ysae.

So it continues. Franck's followers - d'Indy, Lekeu, Castillon as well as Chausson - have a generous airing. Later on Debussy and Grieg feature, and the finale is the breezy septet by Saint-Sans in which strings swoon as a trumpet performs acrobatics. Violin fanciers should note that Joshua Bell is guest soloist on Thursday and Friday.

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