I’m proud to present the first photo of the post-Schubert Ensemble era, showing the stage (at Cranbourne Farm) vacated for the last time by this beloved musical group, after 35 years of concerts. The ensemble gave their final ever concert on Saturday evening, in front of a large gathering of their supporters, who had travelled to rural Hampshire for this significant event, some camping overnight in an adjoining field. It was a glorious evening.
The Schuberts have been making a typically elegant departure, with a year of farewells to venues where they have been welcome guests for decades. Meanwhile a legacy from their years of performing, commissioning and teaching has been carefully planned. With typical efficiency, an exemplary archive website went live at 4pm on the afternoon of the final concert. Nevertheless, on the final evening, I found the event hard to process, and will probably continue to do so. It’s a most unusual situation; a long-established group with no personnel or health issues and no shortage of work gladly celebrating their definite retirement and freedom to pursue other avenues individually. The ensemble's activities have been a big part of my own musical life.
So instead, I turned my attention to the amazing concert hall which the Schuberts’ violist Douglas Paterson has built on his family farm. In many ways it’s a basic agricultural building, with steeply pitched roof, plywood walls attached to a visible steel frame and a concrete floor. The sound and feel was fabulous – particularly the bass end of the spectrum. Doug explained that every time he visited a good venue for sound on a Schubert tour, he would get his tape measure out and try to work out why the space was working. It’s but one example of the creativity with which this great quintet of performers have changed the face of chamber music.