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Aldeburgh Festival (6) Britten, Matthews, Mozart: Endellion String Quartet; David Adams – Viola, Snape Maltings, 16.06.2006 (JW)

Britten: ‘Phantasy’ Quintet in F minor

Colin Matthews: String Quartet No 3

Mozart: String Quintet in D K593

This concert is a very typical Aldeburgh programme; a work by the festival’s founder, Benjamin Britten, a contemporary work and a less known work from the classical repertoire, played by a chamber ensemble of the first rank. The instrumental focus on the viola (an instrument played by both Britten and Mozart) brought together two of the festival’s strands; the Mahler/Shostakovich/Britten/Matthews musical tradition, and the music of 18th century Vienna.On this sunny Friday morning in June, the Snape malting concert hall was around 70% capacity and there was warm and lengthy applause for excellent playing by the Endellion Quartet.

The concert opened with Britten’s resonant and mellow ‘Phantasy’ Quintet, which emphasises the lower strings especially in its opening section. It has a rollicking but measured pace, evocative of the tide of the nearby sea, quickening somewhat as the violins become more prominent as the piece develops. Although an emphasis on the viola might be expected, given the addition to the quartet, for much of the work the cello part was particularly noticeable for its merit as well as its prominence. Only later in the work is there a significant solo section for the viola, where it is accompanied by the cello. The work then returns to its earlier slow tempo, taking a mournful air; the viola and its accompanying cello are joined by the other instruments as the work fades gently to an understated but effective ending.

This was followed by the Colin Matthews quartet, a highly avant garde work with an extremely radical structure. Both its opening and its close are slow movements, the intervening sections only quickening occasionally with a brief scherzo. Again, the lower strings were prominent. The viola is to the fore in a long slow section towards the end of the work. Readers may be interested in a longer feature on Colin Matthews in this his 60th anniversary year, which will appear shortly – where this and other works will be discussed more fully. The composer came onto the stage after the performance in his presence and received an appreciative reception from the festival audience.

The K593 is one of a series of three string quintets, a form popular in Vienna in the 1760s, composed by Mozart. All three were programmed for this year’s festival in Aldeburgh, with different players. This one, although sometimes considered a ‘potboiler’ is a work of substantial length, lyrical tone and fairly measured pace.

Generous and enthusiastic applause ensued for the high quality playing in the short but intense morning concert.

J Williams


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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)