Concert review

Barbican String Quartet

21st April, 2022

The final concert of the Music Club’s season was given by the highly talented Barbican String Quartet – a performance originally planned for January but postponed because of Covid-19. Their programme started with a flourish of extrovert Martinu. His Quartet no.3, written in 1929, is a challenge to any ensemble with its technical demands from all four players and ensemble complexities; the four young players gave a virtuosic account of this stimulating piece grasping its exuberant and lyrical moments with impressive ease. First violinist Amarins Wierdsma led with authority throughout the evening as did the other three players, Kate Maloney, Christoph Slenczka and Yoanna Prodanova, when required.

Schubert’s Quartettsatz followed – an early indicator of the composer’s Romantic instincts. The performance was dramatic until interrupted by a broken E string; the good news was that we had a  repeat performance from the beginning – a fine account of engaging Schubert.

Bartok’s Quartet no.2 from 1917 alternates folk elements, astringent harmonies, visceral energy and bleak despond. From the opening quirky, questioning motif the Quartet portrayed this landscape with acute understanding. The first movement’s lyrical moments were calmly reflective, the second movement’s ferocious rhythms exploded alarmingly and the finale’s sense of hope and resignation received the most sensitive playing – a memorable performance.

Brahms’s Quartet in A minor op.51 no.2 returned us to a more comfortable world. The Barbican Quartet settled into the late Romantic style of Brahms with a well-paced performance exhibiting all the qualities of exceptional quartet playing. The first movement’s textures can obscure the melodic line but the balance between the parts was managed with sensible discretion. The Andante’s lush harmonies were enjoyed and the final cello solo played with great refinement. The Minuet’s gentle amble and the finale’s driving energy were despatched in immaculate style: a fine  concert by an outstanding Quartet.

John Upson



Updated on 27th June 2022
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