Review: Signum Quartet, Jubilee Hall,18th Feb. Cairde Quartet,Aldeburgh Church, 19th Feb.

There were two splendid string quartet recitals in Aldeburgh last week,though both were very different in programming and profile. Friday’s recital at the Jubilee Hall featured the Signum Quartet, already veterans of international competitions, including the Premio Paolo Borciani and the London International String Quartet Competition, whose programme seemed perfectly tailored to the dynamic qualities of their playing.

Hugo Wolf’’s exuberant one movement Italian Serenade provided the perfect starter. The Signum’s playing had the lightness of touch, and just the right amount of exaggeration to the dance rhythms to bring out all the music’s wit and charm.

After this, the real meat of the recital: Wolfgang Rhim’s Quartet No. 9, Quartetsatz. Born in 1952 Rhim is one of the most prolific of late 20th century German composers. This quartet, in one continuous movement lasting some twenty five minutes, communicates immediately, with harsh discords in the upper strings interrupted by percussive cello chords. The changing moods of its episodic stucture are full of energy and imagination, and the Signum’s superb playing made it an exhilarating experience.

Somewhat less so was the final work, Puccini’s bitter sweet Crisantemi; beautifully done, but something of an anti-climax.

Those who braved the foul weather and a cold Aldeburgh Parish Church on Saturday evening were rewarded with a fine recital by the young Cairde Quartet.Haydn’s Quartet in G, Op. 54 No.1 and the third of Beethoven’s Op 18 quartets in C minor flanked Webern’s early post-romantic Langsamer Satz.

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Their playing throughout was very fine. The Haydn and the Beethoven were attacked with confidence and performed with great accuracy and real panache, and in the Webern their rich warm sound and imaginative playing belied their years .

And this is what makes their playing so remarkable,for, although they have been playing together for nearly four years, their ages now are still only between 14 and 15. An astonishing achievement, and to see these young people obviously enjoying performing at this high level truly uplifted one’s spirits.

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Frank Cliff

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