A splendid finale to the festival

Arcanto Quartet/Lonquish, Aldeburgh Festival. Snape Maltings, June 27th

Three short recitals, lasting from afternoon to early evening, given by the Arcanto String Quartet and the pianist Alexander Lonquish provided a splendid finale to this year’s Aldeburgh Festival. In each, a 20th century work prefaced music from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Lonquich played the haunting,if somewhat impenetrable, piano cycle In the Mists by Janacek with an understanding that communicated itself immediately to the audience, capturing perfectly the sense of melancholy that pervades the work.

Janacek was almost sixty when he composed In the Mists: Schubert was only sixteen when he wrote his String quartet in E flat,D87, a charming work, elegantly performed by the Arcanto. A perfectly balanced quartet, their sound is warm and telling throughout the widest dynamic range,as they were able to show in the sensuous music of Anton Webern’s Langsammer Satz, another youthful work, and one which is firmly rooted in conventional tonality.

First and second volins exchanging roles,plus a quasi “period” reading of Mozart’s “Dissonance” Quartet, K465, proved somewhat disappointing, but with the normal order restored, all was redeemed in the magnificent final recital.

The Arcanto’s playing revealed every subtle nuance of Kurtag’s exquisite miniatures Six Moments Musicaux, then, joined by Alexander Lonquish, they gave a breathtaking performance of Schumann’s Piano Quintet. The depth and range of their sound, with near perfect balance between piano and strings, was superb, and, above all, their playing had that quality of improvisation which is the hallmark of a really great performance.

Frank Cliff

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