Review: Castalian Quartet, Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, February 10

The first of the two recitals by the Castalian Quartet, formed as recently as 2010, made the greatest impression of any of three ensembles heard so far at this season’s Lunchtime Chamber Music.

It seemed a brave choice to begin with Shostakovich’s 11th, F Minor, Quartet: not the easiest of pieces to bring off. Written after the composer had been diagnosed as having polyomyelitis, its seven short movements, performed without a break, are complex, both formally and emotionally. Nevertheless, the Castalian’s reading was very convincing, and succeeded in getting the balance right in music which is, by turns, introspective, harsh and dramatic and finally, elegiac, while the often sparse scoring allowed some fine individual playing, notably from first violin, Sadie Fields.

The second work the Castalian played, his Quartet No 11 inc, Opus 61, like all his mature quartets, is rich in melody, though fiendishly difficult. However, technique poses no problem to the Castalian: intonation from the ensemble was excellent throughout and their playing had a warmth and vitality that communicated vividly to a rapt audience

Frank Cliff

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