Review: Elias Quartet, Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh. Friday 25 March/Friday 1 April

The usual high standard of performance, together with some varied and innovative programming,has made this one of the most enjoyable Lunchtime Chamber Music seasons that I have known, with two outstanding recitals by the Elias Quartet providing a memorable finale.

Formed in 1998, originally as the Johnston Quartet, as the Elias they have gained an enviable reputation for their superb technique and for the intelligence and musicality of their performances. Currently they are learning all the Beethoven quartets with a view to performing a complete cycle at various venues in the near future, and we had a foretaste of this at these two recitals with performances of No.10,in E flat, Opus 74,”The Harp”,and No.11 in F minor, Opus 95 “Serioso”, at the first, and No.12 in E flat, Opus 127 at the second.

Each of their readings captured the essence of the music,especially with their tempi, which seemed always perfectly judged. Concentration and,when required, great dramitic energy as in the opening of Opus 95, which they played first. Serene slow movements, with first violin Sarah Bitloch producing the lovliest sound in the Adagio of the Harp,and in Opus 127 there was a fine grasp of overall structure.

There was tremendous applause after the finale of Opus 127, but berfore this came Kurtag’s String Quartet Opus 28 of 1988. The influence of Webern is apparent in the music’s compressed and intensely expressive phrases.It is a short,

colourful score, which, in the hands of the Elias , who have studied with Kurtag , sounded very beautiful.

Frank Cliff

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