Johnson, Carducci Quartet, Warwick Arts Centre review – new work with well-loved quintets
A beautiful contemplation by Stephen Johnson sits alongside Mozart and Brahms
There are those who say, somewhat cynically, that a way for new music to get an audience is to present it carefully packaged up with standard repertoire that will draw a larger crowd. How true that may be is open to debate, but composer Stephen Johnson did introduce his new piece – which was sandwiched between Brahms’s and Mozart’s clarinet quintets, as “the moment you’ve all been dreading”.
The work – Angel’s Arc – is a beautiful, contemplative piece of music that explores sorrow, loss and gratitude from memories of Johnson’s own life. It is named after an area of the West Pennine Moors called Anglezarke, which Johnson had been erroneously led to believe had been given its title from Protestant refugees fleeing the Spanish Netherlands. The fact this turned out not to be true didn’t stop the idea of a people finding sanctuary and being thankful for this place from dwelling in the composer’s mind, and as he says himself in his programme note “many of the most useful poetic ideas have their origins in a mistake”.