Nicholas Yonge Society

  International Chamber Music in Lewes

27th March 2015

Ravel String Quartet in F
Dutilleux Ainsi la Nuit
Mozart String Quintet K. 516 in G minor

Callino Quartet in performance 

This concert was a master-class in listening. Chamber groups can choose to project out and grab you, or instead draw you in to them. Both approaches can work. The opening of the Ravel made it clear that the Callino drew you in. They did it partly because of their style of playing, partly thanks to the dry necessity of the hall's acoustic. Actually, I didn't really get it to start with: "Come on Magnus, get a bit more tone out of your violin", I thought. But then, my ears adjusted to the acoustic and my brain to the idea of a piano being that quiet, and it started to make sense. I adjusted to their dynamic range, was drawn in. Of course, they could play loudly, but Ravel doesn't ask for it that often, the shading is generally within the quiet end of the spectrum. So that was "Listening to Quiet Playing" class 101.

Now for Dutilleux. Inspired by Ravel and Messiaen among others, his Ainsi la Nuit challenges the listener with a new palate of sounds. Again they are quiet, some very quiet, some almost imperceptible. But listen carefully, and what magic sounds they are. Virtuoso individual playing and virtuoso ensemble is needed to play this music convincingly, and I was totally convinced. The range of sounds was wonderful; someone astutely remarked 'it sounds as though some of the sounds are being played backwards', as they faded away at the end of a bouncing bow like a stone skimmed across a pond.

Our reward for listening so intently to the first half, was the revelation of listening to Mozart with our new ears. Again, the incomparable G minor quintet is predominantly piano, and now we were educated to appreciate the subtleties of the Callino's phrasing. I thought I knew its heart-stopping Adagio. But hearing it played by them after the aural training of the first half of the program was a revelation. Just listen to the contrasting pianos, pianissimos, silences, and be thankful that we live after Mozart (and Ravel and Dutilleux), and can hear interpretations of such mastery and insight.

Reviewer: Chris Darwin
Photographer: David James