Review: The Barbirolli Quartet: Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh: Jan 7th.

This season’s Lunchtime Chamber Music at Aldeburgh opened on a propitious note with a splendid recital, the first of twoto be given by the Barbirolli Quartet.Since its foundation at the Royal College of Music in 2003, the Quartet’s dynamic playing and dedicated approach to a diverse repertoire has confirmed its status as one of the finest young quartets around, something admirably demonstrated on Friday with their readings of quartets by Mozart and Bliss.

They gave a polished account of Mozart’s C Major Quartet, K465, the ensemble and intonation as good as anything one could hope to hear, and their enjoyment of the music was obvious.Its a while since I heard a performance with both repeats in the first and last movements, which, formally, is more satisfactory. The only thing that seemed not quite right was the opening adagio. It is this that gives the quartet its nickname, the Dissonance, yet the dissonances needed a little more highlighting than the Barbirolli’s somewhat understated approach.

Sir Arthur Bliss was a fine composer, whose music, especially his chamber music, is unjustly neglected, so it was good to have the opportunity of hearing a live performance of his Quartet No.2 in F Minor. Written in 1950 it is an impressive large scale work, brimming with ideas. With lesser performers it might occasionally sound a little discursive , but the Barbirolli made it sound completely convincing, making light of its considerable technical difficulties,and realising perfectly all the changes of mood and rich colours of the score. Wonderful!

Frank Cliff


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