Mar 5 2010 Perthshire Advertiser Friday
IT was with agreeable anticipation that the audience awaited the return of the Carducci String Quartet for Perth Chamber Music’s Thursday evening concert in Perth Art Gallery.
Unusually, the concert allowed the hearer to contrast works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. These three are often associated together as ‘Classical’ composers, but this concert showed what vast differences there were between the three of them. Further, the Carducci imaginatively brought out every stylistic difference with naturalness and greatness.
Their performance of Haydn’s Quartet in E Flat Op.33 No.2 “Joke” was steadier than some and allowed them to articulate with more character and effect. The Carducci’s approach was of an open good humour, with leader Matthew Denton taking on his occasional soloist role well. Though called Scherzo the second movement showed its minuet origins by a fine, rhythmic, dancelike step. The Largo e sostenuto, with its noble sounding viola and cello start, gave the Carducci chance to show what fine players they are both individually and in blend. The “Joke” refers to the end of the fourth movement, written by Haydn so that the listener is tempted to applaud before the work has actually finished. An emphatic cadence from the Quartet followed by a long pause might have led the audience to applaud, but they were praised by Matthew Denton for their knowledge in not doing.
Mozart’s Quartet in D, K499 followed. Here the Quartet’s tone was much more covered, more refined and courtly. The first movement showed Mozart’s compositional science in a wide ranging and stormy development. Haydn’s world came closest in the Minuetto, but with a contrastingly anxious Trio. Adagios are rare in Mozart and always something special. It would be easy to associate the Carducci’s sublimely vocal playing with, say, the Countess in “Figaro”. The Allegro molto finale, with exciting cello rockets, but also darker moments, was a fine foil to this.
The very best came in the final work, Beethoven’s Quartet in F, Op.59 No.1. The Carducci’s power in the first movement was rightly worlds away from the politeness falsely associated with a string quartet. It was grander and more wide ranging with magnificent playing in the development and a powerful climactic statement of the opening theme. They brought out Beethoven’s sense of fun in the Scherzo playing with rhythmic acuity, a fine manner with the more lyrical tunes and a wry little twist to the final bars. The Carducci Quartet’s playing gained the apex in the slow movement: taking ‘mesto’ (sadly) as the keyword they took the audience on a voyage of vivid emotion.
An antidote to this was the relaxed, good humour of the Finale with its Russian folksong. Their playing seemed to improve still more through the varied incidents, until, with a final, wittily lingering look at the folksong, they hurtled to Beethoven’s joyous conclusion to be greeted by resounding applause from the Perth audience.