Brodsky Quartet/Diana Baroni, St George’s Dec 14

An unexpectedly free evening, and seats left for an intriguing looking collaboration at a favourite venue – easy decision. Billed as mystic and sacred music from round the world, it was a first live sampling of the Brodsky quartet and they could make anything sound beautiful – technique, style, enthusiasm, and gracious explanation all in plentiful supply. Their collaborator, Ms Baroni, has a startling voice – she’d be Argentina’s answer to June Tabor, if Argentina ever needed one. She also plays baroque flute, which is a less appealing sound – not sure why anyone would elect to play it instead of a more modern instrument, but it did provide another ingredient.

The fine first half explored music mainly from South America – Argentina and Peru – and a mix of traditional and contemporary pieces. The second half was less impressive, with a fun new piece by a venerable Argentinian composer, Gandini, but also a comparatively long work from John Taverner – Prayer of the Heart, written in 1999 for Bjork to sing with the quartet. Wasn’t sure that suited Baroni’s less distinctive voice so well, and didn’t much care for it in other respects. It was intended to be meditative, I assume, but sounded merely transcendently tedious to me. I may, of course, be a soulless clod, but if so I married another as the other pair of ears had the same impression. The encore failed to redeem the moment, being a song by Sting – nice tune, shame about the lyrics.

Still, well worth it for that superb first half, as ever enhanced by the magical acoustic of the venue. And would be great to hear Brodsky again, perhaps doing something from the less eclectic side of the their repertoire.

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