Review: Belcea Quartet, Beethoven Cycle - 3, Snape, March 25

The Belcea quartet returned to Snape after a nationwide tour with the third concert of their Beethoven cycle comprising opus 18/1, 59/3 and 132.

With its twentieth anniversary a couple of years hence and an impressive list of national and international success it is hardly surprising that the quartet has developed a well defined and recognisable character.

This was immediately evident in the elegant, balanced performance of the bustling first movement of op 18/1. If the slow movement did not quite realise all the tragic intensity of the music there was ample compensation in the spirited performances of the scherzo and finale.

The harmonically vague opening bars of the last of the Rasumovsky set were dispelled by the bright and breezy Allegro, Corina Belcea sharply incisive with the main theme, the others quick to take up the baton. The slow movement was anchored by characterful pizzicato contributions from Antoine Lederlin and the minuet had an easy charm. The evening stepped up a notch with the fast fugal finale which was a tour-de-force of virtuosity and brio.

The A minor quartet can be angular and forbidding but the players gave a performance that was highly successful in that it made light of some of the more difficult aspects while in no way diminishing the stature of the work.

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The tempo changes of the first movement were smoothly negotiated and the second movement smiled a little more than it sometimes does. The slow movement had a noble serenity with all players giving a sustained intensity to the shifting harmonies as the movement drew to its close.

The sharp little march and the brooding finale maintained the tension to the end. In late Beethoven, especially, the demands on all four players are equally large and the contributions of Axel Schacher and Krystof Chorzelski to the inner workings of the music were consistently outstanding.

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Gareth Jones

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