Review: Albion Quartet, Dvorak and Haydn, Orford Church, March 30

Albion Quartet who performed on Good Friday as part of Snape's Easter programme. Picture: Snape Malt

Albion Quartet who performed on Good Friday as part of Snape's Easter programme. Picture: Snape Maltings - Credit: Archant

From the programme originally advertised for this concert only Haydn’s Emperor quartet survived, with two rarely performed Dvorak quartets giving way to a different rarity from the same composer and his frequently performed ‘American’ quartet.

The Albion Quartet was formed last year but the players had collaborated extensively before then. They have already attracted attention and praise for their powers of expression and communication and some innovative programming.

Opening with Haydn’s polished op 76/2 the Quartet’s technical fluency and interpretative cohesion were immediately evident. There is some notable writing for the viola and Rosalind Ventris took full advantage. The famous slow movement was exquisitely balanced, Tamsin Waley-Cohen secure and sweet-toned in the high violin passages and both minuet and finale were forcefully performed.

Dvorak’s popular opus 96 certainly deserves its place in the repertoire and its easy and elegant charm never fades. Smartly underpinned by Nathaniel Boyd’s cello pizzicatos and Emma Parker’s crisp and secure accompaniment the opening burst into life and the spirit and elan was maintained throughout.

The second half began with a short piece by Dvorak’s son-in-law, Josef Suk. His Meditation on the St Wenceslas Chorale was written and first performed as war engulfed Europe in 1914. It begins quietly but builds to a powerful climax before fading into silence and the highly committed performance left a deep impression and a desire to hear the work again.

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Dvorak himself was a good viola player and learned how ensembles work through experience on the inside. He played in a quartet with an industrialist and amateur cellist, Baron Josef Porges, and dedicated his F minor quartet op 9 to him. It is an early work and it comes across as a fairly serious piece – one senses the composer still learning his craft. However, there are many attractive and arresting passages; the slow movement has some lovely moments and the finale has some powerful writing. The players gave it everything and it is to be hoped that they will soon return to us with some more of Dvorak’s overlooked string chamber music (quartets, quintet and a sextet!)

Gareth Jones

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