MUSIC / Parisii String Quartet - Warwick Festival

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The concentration of music festivals in the Midlands at this time of year is good news for local audiences. The Birmingham-based culture vulture, however, is torn three ways between the various delights of Lichfield, Cheltenham and Warwick. The Warwick Festival has acquired a reputation for economy and elegance, making the best of small-scale venues by concentrating primarily on chamber music. This year their featured composer is Richard Rodney Bennett, the premiere of whose clarinet quintet formed the centrepiece of last Friday's concert.

The new work was surrounded by an elegantly turned rendition of Haydn's Lark Quartet and an assault on Beethoven's C sharp minor quartet in which high drama counted for more than lucidity of argument. In between was the new quintet, superbly written for the medium and calling from Michael Collins playing of astonishing finish. There is much to enjoy in the new work, but having drawn his audience in, Bennett asks of and gives to them very little else: the Presto second movement offers gritty interchange, but elsewhere the lyricism ebbs and flows with superb confidence and a breathtaking lack of incident.

Warwick audiences are well worth welcoming into a piece, but they can easily take a touch more exercise.