Nick Daniel & Friends/Aldeburgh Festival

One of the things that makes the Aldeburgh Festival special is the way the mysterious flat landscape, the festival’s history and the musical programme all partake of the same spirit. Key to that spirit is the festival’s founder Benjamin Britten, whose image as always crops up in this year’s programme book. Also pictured there is another musician who is now part of Aldeburgh’s history – Oliver Knussen, the famed composer and conductor and lynch-pin of the Britten-Pears Foundation’s Summer Schools, who died last year.

Both of these beneficent shades were paid a generous homage in the wonderful concert on Saturday from oboist Nick Daniel and four long-standing musical colleagues. Britten was represented by his drily witty Phantasy Quartet, and we also heard two amazingly refined and sophisticated early pieces from Knussen, composed in his teens in the late 1960s, plus the Cantata for oboe and three string players, completed in 1975, the year of Britten’s death. The tender closing section of this piece, where the music seems to rock itself to sleep, was so beautifully played one wanted it go on for ever. Amongst these older pieces was something brand-new; a witty piece entitled “Among the Unlimitless Etha”, which is a line from the comic strip Krazy Kat. Its composer Joanna Lee was a protegée of Knussen, and her piece had his delicacy of ear but also a refreshingly guileless directness which was a million miles from the master’s intricate obliqueness. IH

Hear the concert by Nick Daniel and friends on “Radio 3 in Concert” on 3rd July and for 30 days thereafter via the BBC Radio 3 website

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