Editor: Marc Bridle
Len Mullenger: Len@musicweb-international.com
S & H Recital Review
Beethoven, Adès, Schubert Wigmore
Hall, Tuesday, February 26th, 2002. Endellion String Quartet (CC)
The vocabulary of Thomas Adès’ Arcadiana
of 1994 is a difficult one: it clearly challenged the Wigmore audience.
Scheduled between the more readily approachable (not to mention familiar)
twin-peaks of Beethoven and Schubert, Adès’ uncompromising language
and propensity for recontextualisation of the familiar should indeed
have been disturbing. And so it was.
Arcadiana is dedicated to the Endellion Quartet,
who gave the première at the Cambridge Elgar Festival (in the
same year as its composition). The disembodied, fragmentary world of
the first movement, ‘Venezia notturna’ immediately set up the sound
world whilst at the same time demonstrating Adès’ ability to
bring other composers and eras into his own remit: at one point the
music threatened to turn into Weill. Mozart (Zauberflöte)
and Schubert (Auf dem Wasser zu singen) both made their presence
felt in succeeding movements, as did Elgar: there is an affectionate
reference to the E flat major of ‘Nimrod’. Arcadiana was, for
this critic, the highlight of the evening.
Beethoven’s A major Quartet, Op. 18 No. 5 opened the
concert. Most notable of the Endellion’s interpretative qualities was
the unanimity of ensemble, but it should also be mentioned that they
made a point of highlighting the modernity of some of the writing (most
obviously in the Theme and Variations). Sometimes a more Viennese rhythmic
‘bounce’ would have been welcome (and there was a nagging doubt as to
the first violinist’s intonation), but this remained a fascinating opening.
If doubts as to Andrew Watkinson’s accuracy of tuning
were to recur in the Schubert, they were not enough to detract from
a reading which was clear and confident in intent right from the strong
initial statement. All of the movements were structurally clearly focussed
and ensemble reached a peak of togetherness in the finale. Most notable
of all was the gritty determination of the developmental passages, where
concentration was felt to the utmost.
There is no doubt as to the Endellion’s high quality
of programming: on March 5th they will present a programme of Berg sandwiched
between Mozart and Schubert which promises to be just as stimulating.
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