Monday 20th March 2017

The Carducci String Quartet gave the final concert of the 2016 – 2017 Season for Aberdeen Chamber Music Concerts. I think everyone who has attended all the concerts will agree that it has been a terrific season and as for me, I think that the Carducci Quartet brought it to a thrilling conclusion with a truly outstanding performance. They gave us a fascinating choice of music, all of it featuring great composers seen in an unusual light, their imaginations striving towards something uniquely different. The Carducci’s playing met every point of interest head on and delivered it in luminous detail to the audience.

They began with Haydn’s Quartet in D Major op. 20 no. 4. The opening movement starts with a motif whose four repeated notes make it instantly recognizable as it runs throughout the whole movement in a variety of different keys and formats. This makes Haydn’s shaping of the music amazingly transparent and the Carducci’s playing underlined this clarity so well.

The second movement in the minor key had a gentle sadness to it expressed initially with touching delicacy by the players. It is in fact a series of variations with delicious playing from the cello and then a touch of brightness from the first violin.

The Menuetto with its folksy gypsy flavour was something new for Haydn and here again, in the trio section, Emma Denton’s lovely cello playing was special.

Matthew Denton on first violin led the chase that Haydn gives his players in the finale which had the Quartet players scampering headlong towards an exciting conclusion.

The Quartet no. 11 in f minor, op. 122 by Shostakovich was unusual in its episodic construction. Although played just by the four players of the string quartet it seemed to have a symphonic breadth and it contained so many of the different forms and moods that this composer achieves in his symphonies. The Scherzo had the threatening quality of the Marches like those in the Fifth Symphony and there were moments of lovely introspection and sadness as well as its moments of angry explosion. The Carducci gave us sweepingly sad and beautiful melodic playing and towards the end, the muted playing was particularly appealing. The first violin injected movement and brightness to the conclusion of the work. The Carducci had led us on an intriguing journey through the startling contrasts of the composer’s very different musical landscapes.

Before they moved over to the dark side of the force (I’m joking) Schoenberg and Webern composed some rather luscious late romantic music and Webern’s Langsamer Satz is one such piece. There were some fascinating details in this music such as the use of pizzicato on the various instruments – it starts on the cello arising out of its rhythmic backing and the piece in facts ends with a single pluck from the cello. There was also a splendid moment where a melodic surge ran seamlessly across the four players as if a strobe light had swung across them. This was a fine performance of just the sort of music I really like and wish I could compose but can’t.

Beethoven’s Quartet in f minor op. 95 was in some ways the most unusual of all the pieces in tonight’s concert. It is almost schizophrenic in the way it combines intensity, urgency, storminess and even violence of mood with a certain sweetness and gentleness. Somehow, in this performance anyway, moments of storminess also had undercurrents of gentle sweetness and vice versa. The Carducci had achieved something amazing in being able to project these combined feelings.

I loved the complexities of the fugato in the second movement where so many emotions were touched upon. There was a jauntiness at the opening of the third movement but as it progressed storm and softness were contrasted yet bound together too. The finale opened with a sensation of deep sadness and then suddenly everything was merriment and sunshine – so different from the opening of the work. This really was the most amazingly advanced and sophisticated music and it received a performance that was totally worthy of it from the Carducci Quartet.

Another season is over for Aberdeen Chamber Music Concerts. A summer of gardening and mowing of lawns beckons before a new concert season begins on Monday 9th October with a visit from the Doric Quartet.

Before that the AGM for Aberdeen Chamber Music Concerts will take place in Craigiebuckler Church at 7.30 pm on Wednesday 14th June. If you are a member please come along and give us your support and opinions. You will be warmly welcome!

Carducci String Quartet Review