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Performance notes

Chamber music is a vital and vigorous branch of the classical tradition. So why does it have such trouble winning audiences and reviews?

By Martin Kettle   March 2009

In January, my newspaper sent me to review a concert by the esteemed Takács string quartet (pictured, below right) in the South Bank Centre, in London. In my review, I wrote about my concern that on this occasion the Queen Elizabeth Hall had been barely half full. Was it the presence in the programme, sandwiched between Haydn and Schumann, of a substantial modern work, Wolfgang Rihm’s 11th string quartet? Or was it perhaps a sign of tougher times for the performing arts as the recession begins to bite?

A few days later, I got an email from one of Britain’s…

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