Nicholas Yonge Society

Chamber Music in Lewes

29th March 2019

Mozart Piano Quartet K.493 in E-flat
Jean Françaix Divertissement
Schumann Piano Quartet

Notos Piano Quartet in performance 

The Notos Piano Quartet made a welcome return for the closing concert of our season.

They began with Mozart’s Quartet K493. The atmosphere of this piece is somewhat more relaxed than the better-known G minor. The music however does not play itself, but must sound as if it does. To bring this off requires close attention to ensemble, phrasing and dynamics. The players negotiated its demands expertly, bringing us sunshine and elegance where needed, while not skimming over the darker passages. As one who is not over-fond of Mozart (heresy I know!) I found the performance compelling and convincing.

The Jean Francaix Divertissement was new to me. The composer is often dismissed as writing mere “French froth”, but the performers showed us that there is more to him than that, in this piece at least. It is young man’s music, with lightness of touch, humour, and many different musical styles referenced – typical of the 1930s in that respect. But amidst the angular lines, crunchy harmony and, yes, showing off, there is clear evidence of profoundly musical intelligence. For me the 3rd movement showed this most clearly. It was good to hear this unfamiliar piece, played with evident enjoyment and skill. Diverting indeed! 

After the interval we heard the Schumann Quartet Op. 47, composed at the end of one of the intense bursts of creativity which marked the composer’s career. It lays bare Schumann’s intense inner world, the music bursting with wide-ranging emotions. This was especially true in the third movement, in which the players excelled – never has the marking cantabile been more compellingly conveyed.

It was exciting to see how the Notos Quartet have developed as an ensemble, with their programme a timely reminder of the rich European musical heritage on offer. A wonderful end to a remarkable season.

Reviewer: Stephen Terry
Photographer: David James