There was a real treat the remodelled Queen Elizabeth Hall on Friday evening - two phenomenal oldies, two hugely gifted youngsters and a string quartet that looked terribly young to me but which was formed 16 years ago - the Navarra.
The oldies were James Galway (78) and the 94(!) year old Menahem Pressler. The youngsters were the hugely gifted clarinettist and composer Mark Simpson and the star hostess of the evening Danielle de Niese whose interaction with this marvellous company produced relaxed music making of the highest order, clearly enjoyed hugely by all on the stage as well as by the cheering public.
Whilst the core of the programme was Schubert we had two French rarities, two Ronsard poems for soprano and flute by Albert Roussel, and the Chanson perpétuelle by Chausson in his version with piano quintet replacing the orchestra.
This kind of mixed programme of chamber music with an assortment of friends coming together in this way is really rare these days, so all credit to the Southbank Centre for featuring it in their International Chamber Music Series. And thanks to this splendid array of distinguished artists for delivering such a beautifully designed and magically performed programme.
Meanwhile the QEH! The hall appears to have improved and really excellent acoustics - and it is warm and welcoming and comfortable. The foyer has been opened up and has been provided with a performance space (they call it a "gigs space"!) of its own. Well there was a "gig" at high volume as the audience arrived and when the performers departed they were replaced by a some grotesquely over amplified "background music". They might want to rethink that - as well as the lighting which on Friday evening was deeply gloomy. Its only been open for a couple of weeks - teething problems no doubt. Anyway its great to have the QEH back in action - a place of so many memories over the last 50 years.