Concert Review

Guarneri String Quartet Dvorak Op. 51; Beethoven Op. 95; Sibelius Op 56 Voces Intimae, Wigmore Hall, London 28 May 2000 (PGW)


Whilst Seen & Heard more often looks to the future (see the recent String Quartet Competition, April 2000) it is a pleasure to salute the longest continuing collaboration of any quartet in the world. The Guarneri String Quartet was established in 1964, since when its founder members have toured world wide and recorded assiduously. Although they are not disbanding, I understand that the cellist, David Soyer, has decided not to tour internationally with his colleagues any more, though he will continue to play with them in New York. Another cellist is joining Arnold Steinhardt, John Dalley and Michael Tree for the gruelling travelling, which is the life-style of a leading string quartet. There were no signs of any falling away and they had a rapturous reception from the full Wigmore Hall audience on this Whitsun Bank Holiday Sunday, when a sparse attendance might have been anticipated.

Different generations bring a different feeling to music making. There were no hurdles or challenges to face, and they played for the love of the music, not to prove anything or make points. One has heard more exciting performances of Op. 95, but this was a good account of Beethoven's concise Serioso quartet. In general, they played for blend rather than emphasising individuality, with good intonation and a more legato style than some younger ensembles. In Dvorak's delectable E flat quartet, which should be equally popular as the so-called (now) 'American', the richness of the lower strings (with Michael Tree, viola) was particularly noticeable. Sibelius's only quartet had a welcome airing and went well, but without suggesting that it is likely to earn a full place in the regular canon of masterpieces. For their encore, the violinists Arnold Steinhardt and John Dalley exchanged places.

This last London appearance of the original Guarneris was recorded by the BBC and it will be well worth looking out for in the Radio 3 schedules.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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