Nicholas Yonge Society

  International Chamber Music in Lewes

24th January 2020

Beethoven String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95 "Serioso"
Britten String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 25
Whitley Bluett *new commission*
Mendelssohn String Quartet No. 6  in F minor, Op. 80

Carducci Quartet in performance 

Sturm und Drang was very fashionable in 18th Century music. The “storm and stress” presented at our January concert was the 19th century version, which, rather than being an artificial conceit, comes from the heart and soul of the composer. The Carducci Quartet opened their programme with Beethoven’s Op 95, which has one of the most arresting openings in all quartet literature – I found myself comparing it with the similarly striking beginning to Bartok’s 4th – and Beethoven’s passionate struggle with his material continues largely unabated throughout.  The music requires concentration, and the notes sometimes need to be confronted as much as played. The Carduccis were not afraid of the considerable challenges this work presents, and the deep emotions present were very well conveyed by playing that was both passionate and lyrical.  

Britten’s 1st Quartet that followed is from a very different sound-world, but the tension, although expressed in a more refined way than in the Beethoven, is still real. The Carduccis conveyed the complexity of Britten’s character evident in this piece, in an interpretation that was dynamically sensitive, both light of touch and robust in response as the music required.

Kate WhitleyKate Whitley’s “work in progress” Bluett (the one completed movement of a quintet to be performed later in 2020) received its premiere after the interval, with the composer joining the Carduccis at the piano. Kate (right) has an interesting voice, and an individual approach to the always tricky problem of combining piano and strings. The piece is highly atmospheric, restrained in tone, and was well received by the audience. It provided a cooling contrast to what followed. Highly emotional, angry and despairing in the wake of his beloved sister’s death, Mendelssohn’s final quartet Op 80 made for a fitting climax to the evening. The Carduccis gave a stunning performance of this, full of passion and breathtaking ensemble playing.  

What an evening! 

Reviewer: Stephen Terry
Photographer: David James