By John Rushby-Smith

Those who were deterred by storm and tempest from attending the Malvern Concert Club concert on November 22 missed a memorable treat. In a refreshingly bold programme the virtuoso chamber ensemble that plays under the somewhat obtuse name of The Fibonacci Sequence offered truly delectable fare for the two-thirds full house of braver souls who made it to the Forum.

The concert began with Mozart’s masterpiece, the exquisite Quintet for Piano and Wind Instruments, K452. This relatively late work reveals the composer’s skilful ability to blend disparate timbres into cohesive sonority without compromising the instruments’ individual character, and it was never better demonstrated than by the five players who presented it here. The performance was beautifully balanced throughout. Tempi and textures were finely judged, intonation (never a given with such forces) was nigh on perfect. The mood then changed both musically and meteorologically as we were transported to Samuel Barber’s Summer Music for Wind Quintet. A comfortable work that is as quintessentially American as it is quintessentially Samuel Barber, it warmed us up with beautifully articulated evocations of balmy indolence and sun-drenched conviviality.

Less appealing perhaps was Koechlin’s drily academic Trio for Flute, Clarinet and Bassoon. Although tapping into its period’s fashion for neo-baroque pastiche, it displayed neither the poise of the genuine baroque nor the crafty wit of the pasticheur. The third and longest movement was an extended fugue that evoked in me dusty memories of harmony and counterpoint classes. Clever? Maybe. Attractive? Not really. Well played? Certainly. What followed, however, was true joy. Introduced by the composer’s Nocturne for Piano Solo, played with great sensitivity by Kathron Sturrock, Poulenc’s Sextet for Piano and Wind Instruments is a glorious compendium of parody and pathos, full of subtle cross references to well-known works by other composers, including the Mozart Quintet, yet remaining unmistakably the work of its unique master-craftsman. Where Mozart’s work was all about blend, Poulenc’s exploits the instruments’ idiosyncracies as it unfolds in a series of kaleidoscopic episodes, each more colourful than the last. The performance sparkled with that special kind of wit and wisdom that comes from mature musicianship; something the members of the Fibonacci Sequence have in spades. This was playing to die for.