Ipswich Chamber Music Society

Dominant String Quartet, Ipswich Chamber Music Society, November 17The composers were familiar enough but one or two of the works rather less so, which made for a particularly satisfying evening at Ipswich School on Saturday.

Gareth Jones

Dominant String Quartet, Ipswich Chamber Music Society, November 17

The composers were familiar enough but one or two of the works rather less so, which made for a particularly satisfying evening at Ipswich School on Saturday. The B flat quartet, the last of Beethoven's op 18 set is an extrovert, polished piece, typical of the composer in his early confidence. A pity, then, that the members of the Dominant Quartet approached it with some diffidence, keeping the composer's vigorous intelligence and humour somewhat in the background. Nothing was particularly at fault - it was merely allegro without much brio, despite the composer's express instructions.

Shostakovich's twelfth quartet is a late work, premiered in Leningrad, seven years before the composer's death and in the dark, sombre key of Db major.


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The contrast of the spare, stark writing with the opulent exuberance of Beethoven was, in itself, an education, both composers making their points but in totally differing ways. If the earlier composer sometimes sends you into the happiest recesses of your favourite chair, the Russian can have you on the very edge of your seat. So it proved in this riveting performance - the solo cello against muted strings and the harsh, vibrato-less pizzicatos of the first violin just two of several memorable moments in a performance which drew the outside world to a standstill.

Brahms' mighty Piano Quintet can all too easily become a piano sonata (even concerto) with strings trying to compete and it is enormously to the credit of pianist Megumi Fujita that she maintained a level of sound throughout that allowed one to appreciate all the intricacies of the writing, the viola especially having some delicious moments. Beethoven, yes, but it was the Schubertian side of the composer that emerged in this intelligent and welcome performance.

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Gareth Jones

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