Finzi, Brian Elias and Mozart at Wigmore Hall, London, 19 April 2017

Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Britten Sinfonia (Jacqueline Shave & Miranda Dale [violins], Clare Finnimore & Dorothea Vogel [violas], Caroline Dearnley [cello]

Finzi – Interlude for oboe and string quartet
Brian Elias – Oboe Quintet (world premiere)
Mozart – String Quintet in C minor K.406/516b

Brian Elias may not be the most prolific of composers but he has been a significant presence in British contemporary music since the 1980s, a decade which brought the composer to prominence with the premiere of his orchestral work L’Eylah – written in memory of Elias’s sister, Toya – at the BBC Proms in 1984, and the first performance of Five Songs to Poems by Irina Ratushinskaya, a cycle for mezzo-soprano and large orchestra, in 1989.

This year we will be hearing Elias’ music more frequently. In the autumn, his Olivier-winning score for Kenneth MacMillan’s last ballet, The Judas Tree (1991), will be reprised at the Royal Ballet, to mark the 25th anniversary of the choreographer’s death, and the Cello Concerto that he completed in 2015 is due to receive its premiere. Moreover, this month NMC releases a disc devoted to Elias’ music, including Electra Mourns which was first heard at the BBC Proms in 2012 (performed by the Britten Sinfonia, Nicholas Daniel and Susan Bickley, and conducted by Clark Rundell).
At the Wigmore Hall, we had the opportunity to hear the world premiere of Elias’ Oboe Quintet, performed by Nicholas Daniel and members of the Britten Sinfonia. In a pre-concert conversation with Dr Kate Kennedy, the composer did not give much away about his newest work – which was written at the request of oboist Nicholas Daniel, and commissioned by the Wigmore Hall with the support of André Hoffmann, President of the Fondation Hoffmann – other than to say that Mozart’s Oboe Quartet was a looming precedent, and that he initially worried about what to do with the second violin: the answer – to make both vi