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Ripon International Festival Opening Concert 2006: The Razumovsky Ensemble,  Mozart, String Quartet K465 The Dissonance; Schubert, String Quintet in C D956,

Holy Trinity Church, Ripon, UK, 08.09.2006 (JL)


A chamber music concert may seem a modest way to open the Ripon International Festival  but this was, in musical terms, a big  occasion thanks to two great composers and a group of distinguished string players all at the height of their powers.  As the Mozart “Dissonance” String Quartet unfolded from its mysterious, enigmatic opening I was conscious of hearing what I judged to be the biggest sound coming from four string players that I have ever heard. This may have been partly to do with the generous acoustic of the uncluttered interior of the Holy Trinity building which is a big Church and it suited the ensemble’s style well. But “big” sound does not necessarily mean loud. This ensemble plays with a full blooded weight, power and singing vibrato that can lead to rare emotional intensity. For example, never have I heard the slow movement of the Mozart Quartet, which starts with deceptive relaxation, build to such troubled emotion in its middle section. This would have been a lesson to anyone who thought Mozart mostly wrote pretty music.


For those who might have preferred their Mozart played with more restrained classical refinement, then the Razumovskys really came into their own in Schubert’s String Quintet in C, a work written at the cusp of the classical and romantic periods. The composer unusually adds another cello rather than viola to the conventional string quartet and this allows one cello to take melodies while the other can continue to provide bass bedrock. Ukrainian Cellist Oleg Kogan is the founding inspiration behind this relatively recently formed international ensemble that consists of a select body of outstanding players, and their big sound has been built by him from the bottom up. The Schubert Quintet though, allowed him to sing some of the most gorgeous melodic lines for cello that exist in any chamber work.  Combine this with the fact that he plays an exquisitely sounding, priceless instrument made in Italy over 300 hundred years ago – not a Stradivarius but at least the next best thing - then the audience were especially privileged.


Winfried Rademacher, a German violin professor who has acted as leader to some outstanding European orchestras in his time, led the players with a panache that summed up the collective energy of the musicianship. Schubert’s Quintet is a work that combines joy, pain and beauty to an extraordinary degree and the Razumovskys squeezed every ounce from the music. The disturbing middle section of the Adagio movement I found almost unbearable in intensity as the violin soared while the lower strings throbbed. Overall there was a steady integrity of interpretation – no showing off with over-fast tempi. The last movement of the Schubert was particularly well paced; slowing ever so slightly for the second main tune, then gradually speeding up to achieve maximum climax at the end.


This was a performance that would surely convince anybody that the work, written by a 31 year old genius who was to die the following month, is one of the supreme masterpieces of the chamber repertoire.


A world class start to the Ripon Festival.



John Leeman



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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)