Family quartet shows us beauty of winter

PUBLISHED: 13:58 18 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:37 07 September 2010

In music as in most things, blood ties count. Think of the Bachs, Scarlattis, Mendelssohns: time and time again a family becomes an industry. And a good modern example is the Henschel Quartet who arrive in north London the weekend before Christmas for a s

In music as in most things, blood ties count. Think of the Bachs, Scarlattis, Mendelssohns: time and time again a family becomes an industry. And a good modern example is the Henschel Quartet who arrive in north London the weekend before Christmas for a seasonal concert at Kings Place.

Three of the quartet's four members - the violins and viola - are siblings. And to complete the picture, their father played violin in the Stuttgart Radio Symphony, their mother was a pianist and their unofficial uncle, who lived in the house when they were growing up, was the legendary conductor Sergiu Celibidache.

As lineages go, that's not bad. And out of it has come one of the most celebrated performing ensembles in Germany, which is where I last heard them - in an enchanting little town near Frankfurt called Seligenstadt where they run a small but perfectly formed summer music festival.

The concerts happen in the abbey cloister, exposed to the hazards of rain, chiming bells and night flights into Frankfurt airport but otherwise magical. And they come with the sleek intensity that characterises everything the Henschels do - not least their recent CD of the recently rediscovered Quintet by Max Bruch on the Neos label. Very much worth hearing.

But better still, hear them in the flesh at Kings Place where they are playing Mozart and Mendelssohn but also accompanying the Finchley Children's Music Group in the premiere of a new, carol-based piece that won a national competition in the BBC Music Magazine.

Called Carolingua, it's scored for the unusual ensemble of four treble voices and string quartet and intended, according to composer Derek Smith, to suggest the stillness and beauty of a star-lit winter night.

A recording with the Henschels and the famous Tolzer Knabenchor from Germany comes out next year. But catch it first on home-ground north of King's Cross station where a seasonable shot of stars, stillness and beauty won't go amiss.

The Henschel Quartet and Finchley Children's Music Group are at Kings Place, York Way, on Sunday December 20 at 6.30pm. For tickets, call 020-7520 1490.


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