Cellist Gemma Rosefield was sadly indisposed due to illness, so to replace Janáček's Kreutzer Sonata, the concert opened with Tim Horton reprising his performance of Prokofiev's Seventh Piano Sonata from Friday night. As emergency programming goes, you can't begrudge Mr Horton for recycling a piece of this calibre, and, if anything, I found the final movement even more exciting than last time. It also sat well in this harmonically gnarly programme.
It was cracking repertoire for a compact, thought-provoking lunchtime concert. Aside from their highly colourful, gritty musical languages, Pavel Haas and Erwin Schulhoff have in common that their lives were cut short by WWII, both dying in their forties in concentration camps. There is great poignancy, then, in the humanity and optimism of their music.
Schulhoff's Concertino is inventive and full of humour, taking the most rustic of folk-like melodies and going off on wild harmonic tangents that seem to recall Hindemith, Stravinsky and Schoenberg all at once. The playing was top quality here, reconciling the awkward combination that is viola (Krzysztof Chorzelski), double bass (Laurène Durantel) and flute/piccolo (Juliette Bausor), sometimes in almost alien-sounding octave unisons. The performers propelled each other through all the piece's eccentric twists and turns whilst keeping the ensemble tight.
Haas's Suite for Oboe and Piano Op. 17 seemed to have a redemptive narrative, the oboe oddly constrained and squirming at the opening, but fighting its way to a euphoric finale – this was clarified by a dedicated and perfectly-paced performance by Horton and Adrian Wilson. I note that the Janáček connection would have been that he taught Haas, a point that was most evident when the third movement hit its passionate full throttle.