Ah! Crystal Palace, the Montmartre of South London, with its breathtaking views around the whole city plus far-reaching southern surroundings. A unique urban hilltop town in London, immortalised (just along the ridge towards Upper Norwood) by Camille Pissarro and, in photographs, by Emile Zola. There’s even an imposing Eiffel Tower lookalike. The problem? Constant traffic haring, or creeping, around Crystal Palace Triangle, a continuous set of one-way roads circling the apex of the hill. Get rid of that and this really would be a tourist destination.
My visit on Sunday evening was to Antenna Studios, a hive of artists’ premises, recording studios and even a baby grand piano, clinging to a hillside. Inside, Bridgetower Music were playing a rich, chunky selection of piano quartets, including my own Distance and Enchantment, while the sun set through the windows behind them. Part of a regular Sunday night series at Antenna, called Classical Transmission, this was a civilised and relaxed end to the weekend.
Chatting to the artists afterwards, we discussed the proposition that 'there isn't much modern music for piano quartet’ (in fact, thanks particularly to the Schubert Ensemble, there's now a bit more than there was. ) But this perception is one of my top reasons for recommending to students that they write new music for the medium . An additional pleasure for the piano quartet composer is regularly hearing and getting to know the select but great rep for this group by Brahms (as on this occasion) Mozart, Fauré and Schumann. It's all vaut le voyage.