From the moment the Enigma Quartet set foot on the stage on Sunday March 9th 2014 it was clear to the audience at St Bernard’s Church, Batehaven, that a vivacious and self assured performance was about to take place. The programme contained music by Britten, Borodin and Beethoven and was a challenging task for the listeners as well as the players.
While many would profess not to really like, or for that matter know much about Britten’s music, the Rhapsody (composed when Britten was 15) was a tuneful introduction to the evening and was played peacefully and with great attention to detail. The three divertimenti which were composed a little later in Britten’s life were contrasting in style and what stood out to me was the variety of musical textures – strong unison sounds, contrapuntal sections, bare drone like passages and the use of harmonics to good effect. The clarity and tight ensemble playing and articulation in these pieces were evident throughout and this really made the music come alive. A sense of humour and fun was evident throughout.
The Nocturne from String Quartet no 2 by Borodin was an excellent choice to follow the Britten and the audience was able to relax and enjoy a very well known and voluptuous melody with equally rich accompaniment. The opening statement of the theme by the cello was beautifully played and the accompaniment of Violin 2 and viola perfectly supported the melody. The movement progressed through a less contemplative stage and returned to the theme on the cello towards the end with a short coda where echoes of the theme were heard. The performance was very well balanced and a joy to listen to.
After the interval Beethoven’s Razumovsky Quartet no 2 in E minor was the masterpiece of the evening. The first movement was dazzling with its opening strident chords and subsequent melody, descending arpeggios and moments of silence. A long and tuneful second movement kept the audience spellbound and the strong rapport between the players was very noticeable in a well balanced and thoughtful presentation.
As the Quartet progresses it becomes more lighthearted and the five note Russian folk tune in the third movement – introduced by the viola and played by each of the instruments in turn – was appropriately supported by the rest of the quartet. Probably the pièce de résistance was the wonderful playing of the rondo theme in the last movement and the strong episodes between each statement of the subject – oh to be the first violinist in this movement!!
The whole concert was notable for the wonderful ensemble playing and the obvious enthusiasm, musicality and technical skill exhibited by each member of the group. The result was an intensely musical outcome and it was a privilege to be able to attend such a polished performance. I very much hope that we shall see and hear this group in Batemans Bay again soon!
9th March 2104