Aldebugh Festival: Zehetmair Quartet

Northern Sinfonia/Zehetmair: Zehetmair Quartet at Snape, June 22 & 23THE versatility of the Northern Sinfonia under Thomas Zehetmair, their music director, was amply demonstrated by an eclectic programme with works ranging from small chamber group to full symphony orchestra.

Northern Sinfonia/Zehetmair: Zehetmair Quartet at Snape, June 22 & 23

THE versatility of the Northern Sinfonia under Thomas Zehetmair, their music director, was amply demonstrated by an eclectic programme with works ranging from small chamber group to full symphony orchestra.

Gerald Barry's Lisbon 10 minutes of exotic sounds and oft repeated motifs scored for solo piano and 13 instruments provided a colourful opening.

Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, with Zehetmair directing from the solo violin and partnered by viola player Ruth Killius was more slick than seductive, though the two soloists displayed stunning virtuosity in Heinz Holliger's duo for violin and viola, the last movement of which requires the performers to sing and play at the same time.

Pamela Helen Stephen's mezzo soprano captured all the dramatic intensity of Britten's cantata Phaedra, mirrored by the luminous playing of the Sinfonia strings.

Zehetmair's style on the rostrum might appear slightly wooden but in the final work we had a real demonstration of his abilities as a conductor in an immensely powerfully performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, utterly compelling from first bar to last.

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The Zehetmair Quartet is an ensemble, as one might expect, of dazzling virtuosity and whose authoritative performance of Hindemith's fourth quartet was persuasive advocacy for this composer's neglect quartet repertoire.

However their reading of Beethoven's opus 135 left me somewhat confused. Presumably the ultra fast tempi and minimal use of vibrato were some attempt at period performance, but if so the result only served to rob the music of its spiritual heart.

Frank Cliff

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