tue 25/06/2024

Carducci String Quartet, St George's Hall Concert Room, Liverpool | reviews, news & interviews

Carducci String Quartet, St George's Hall Concert Room, Liverpool

Carducci String Quartet, St George's Hall Concert Room, Liverpool

Début performance in city launches Shostakovich anniversary celebration

The Carduccis: Matthew Denton, Michelle Fleming, Eoin Schmidt-Martin and Emma DentonAndy Holdsworth

When you’re visiting someone for the first time, it’s probably just as well that you make a good impression – or else you may not be asked back.

If that’s what the Carducci String Quartet was trying to do on their début visit to Liverpool, then they did all the right things.  They mesmerised the audience with their performance of the second of Beethoven’s "Razumovsky" quartets, so much so that they were forced to sit down and perform an encore, which turned out to be a little irreverent Shostakovich, in the shape of the Rondo Polka.

If anything, this concert – part of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Chamber Music series - was all about Shostakovich. Described at the outset by first violin Matthew Denton, this is to be the quartet’s “epic Shostakovich year”. They’re giving 35 performances which will include all 15 of the composer’s quartets, marking the 40th anniversary of his death. They’ll be performing these at venues worldwide, culminating in a marathon performance of all 15 at Shakespeare's Globe in August, on what would have been the composer’s birthday.  They’ll also be recording the Fourth, Eighth and 11th quartets, their second disc for Signum Classics.

Carducci Quartet by Tom BarnesThis concert included the Fourth Quartet in D major, Op 83. It’s one of those works which was held back until after Stalin’s death in 1953 – it was written in 1949 - and yet is one of the more mild-mannered of the composer’s works for this ensemble (Carduccis in Shostakovich mood pictured right by Tom Barnes).The introverted, intense playing by the quartet in the Allegretto opening movement brought a particular feeling of pathos to the performance, almost asking the audience to sympathise with the agonies the composer must have felt after the intensity of the criticism from the Soviet authorities.  They brought a constant questioning to the performance, building to an explosive climax.

There was some glorious playing from the cello in the poignant and searching Andantino, helping to reveal the beautiful and artful lines developed by Shostakovich. The muted Scherzo was understated and yet the quartet managed to underline the potent energy always surging beneath the surface while the finale just burst forth. Particularly striking were the unison passages at the central climax with, again, some more haunting cello solos.

The concert opened with Haydn’s E flat Major Quartet, Op 33 No 2, the "Joke". The opening Allegro Moderato was a perfectly civilised conversation between four friends, full of joy and almost flirtatious.The Scherzo was full of humour, tempered with a very sweet and innocuous trio though the high point must have been the slow movement. The serene opening duo between cello and viola was a moment which was hardly equalled in the entire concert. And the joke? The audience did fall for it: rapturous applause over the continued playing. It works every time!

The Beethoven String Quartet in E minor, Op 59 No 2 was massively dramatic at the opening: full of searing energy, though the Molto Adagio was peculiarly emotional. Maybe it was that arrival in the home straight which made things just slightly ragged at the end. The slightly disconcerting syncopation in the opening of the Allegretto felt slightly insecure, though it was barely discernible. What was a little more worrying was the way that the momentum built through the presto Finale. The breathlessness almost seemed to push the movement over the edge as it reached its conclusion.But those were tiny niggles in what was a splendid first visit. It seems almost a certainty that the Carduccis will be back.

Haydn's serene opening duo between cello and viola was a moment which was hardly equalled in the entire concert


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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