Review: Almandin Quartet, Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh. January 6.

The new season of Aldeburgh Lunchtime Chamber Music began last Friday with a recital by the Almandin Quartet, founded in 2001 when its members were students at the Hochschule fur Musik in Hanover, and now making their first appearance at these concerts.

They made an impressive opening to the first of their two recitals with a performance of the String Quartet No. 5 by Peteris Vasks. Born in 1946, Vasks is a Latvian, whose music was little performed until the ‘90s, and is still better known in Europe than in this country.

Though Vasks primary influence was the great flowering of Polish music after the war, spearheaded by Lutoslawski and Penderecki, the 5th Quartet demonstrates a very individual voice.

From the opening fanfare-like motif, the string writing is very idiomatic - Vasks is both a violinist and double-bass player- and, if formally, it is sometimes a little rambling, it is music which makes a vivid impression, especially in a reading as totally convincing as that the Almandin gave us.

Their performance of Brahms first C Minor Quartet was equally impressive. In terms of interpretation, this is a taxing work, yet the Almandin’s reading showed a real insight into the complexities of this wonderful score. Intonation was impeccable, the balance excellent, and their playing always had the measure of the dramatic and lyrical flow of the music, with nothing overdone. The only thing missing was a more sympathetic acoustic than that of the Jubilee Hall.

Frank Cliff