The eight expert players of the London Conchord Ensemble, in various combinations, delivered a high-minded Friday night variety concert.

Mozart's use of wind instruments in his K 452 Piano Quintet creates more vibrant hues than homogeneous strings. This was apparent early on, with a phrase passed up from bassoon, horn and clarinet to oboe and, throughout the work, the firm and stylish anchor of Julian Milford's piano was graced by his colleagues' supple and responsive phrases.

Webern's arrangement of Schoenberg's 1907 Chamber Symphony has five musicians substituting for 15. This simpatico transcription by the composer's pupil clarified complexities as Daniel Rowland's violin soared over a salon-scale ensemble.

Poulenc's 1939 Sextet set up a genial canter until Andrea de Flammineis' bassoon insisted on a more sentimental turn. The French composer's easy elegance was caught with a sophistication that made one realise why the writer Colette once playfully commented that "water is not Poulenc's favourite beverage".


Rowland, Milford and cellist Bartholemew LaFollette dazzled us in Sally Beamish's piano trio rescoring of Debussy's La Mer but, ultimately, the feat of the arranger over-shadowed the poetry of the original. I, for one, sorely missed the woodwind sparkle on the second movement's waves.

After a testing but extremely rewarding programme, the audience was treated to a crowd-pleasing encore of Brahms Hungarian dances.

What: London Conchord Ensemble
Where: Auckland Town Hall
When: Friday