ABERDEEN CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERTS
THE SANCTUARY QUEEN’S CROSS CHURCH
Monday 11th October 2021
TIZIANO BAVIERA: First Violin
ALBERTO FRANCHIN: Second Violin
SARA DAMBRUOSO: Viola
TOMASSO TESINI: Cello
Antonio Bazzini: String Quartet No.5 in c minor, Op.80
Beethoven: String Quartet No.13 in B flat, Op.130
Today’s concert on Monday 11th October was still under Covid restrictions with regard to audience numbers allowed in Queen’s Cross. The concert was therefore once again presented in two performances, one at 3pm and a second with an identical programme at 6pm. Both were reasonably well attended and both audiences responded enthusiastically to an exceptionally attractive programme of music given exemplary performances by Quartetto Noûs whose members come from all across Italy but are now based in Como in Northern Italy.
Italy is not a country which, in Britain at least, has been strongly associated with fine music for String Quartet. This prejudgement reflects on both performers and composers. However, Monday’s concert was a real epiphany for music lovers in Scotland. Italy was proved to have at least one top rate composer in Antonio Bazzini. His Quartet No.5 in c minor stood up worthily alongside the second work in the programme, Beethoven’s Quartet No. 13 in B flat, Op. 130. This Quartet is generally recognised as one of the finest in the entire repertoire. It means that Bazzini’s Quartet came across as pretty darned good! Bazzini’s and Beethoven’s Quartets are both remarkably rich in attractive melodic material. There was something about Bazzini’s writing too that was noticeably transparent such that the lines of music given to each of the four instruments in the quartet shone forth with remarkable clarity. Monday’s performance by Quartetto Noûs seized on that and made the very best of it. The lines of music were particularly cleanly delivered in the opening movement, Allegro appassionato. Yes, there was passion in the playing as instructed by the composer but there were moments of marvellous delicacy and lightness in the playing as well. The second movement Andante was full of warm beautifully well blended string playing while the two final movements were loaded with imaginative character and generous thematic content. Every moment of the playing offered delightful melodic and rhythmic surprises.
Since Beethoven’s Quartet is so well known, this offered a true appraisal of the quality of performance by Quartetto Noûs. As far as I am concerned, they came through with a gold medal performance. I was sitting where I could see the fingers of cellist Tommaso Tesini working the fingerboard sometimes like a crazy spider. The music delivered by all four players was spot on. The second movement Presto really sparkled. Both it and the following Andante were full of good humour. Quartetto Noûs certainly took hold of that and worked it splendidly. Of course it was the wonderfully tuneful Alla danza tedesca and the gorgeous Cavatina (could it possibly have been an inspiration for Gustav Mahler’s Adagios later on), that were the absolutely delicious centre of this quartet and this performance – Beethoven heard at his magnificent best.
Most live performances of this quartet that I remember have ended with the Große Fuge but today we heard the alternative finale. It was more or less the last music that Beethoven completed. One tends to think of him being in a dark place at the end of his life but this is wonderfully lively, light-hearted, even joyous music, certainly in Monday’s performance by Quartetto Noûs. Both audiences responded with enthusiasm to their performance and were rewarded with an encore consisting of the first movement of Luigi Boccherini’s String Quartet Op.8 No.1. Here was music that fairly blazed with fire and excitement. So don’t tell me that Italy has no good string quartet music because as Monday’s concerts proved – it just isn’t true!