Nicholas Yonge Society

International Chamber Music in Lewes

Barbican Quartet

8th October 2021
Britten String Quartet No. 2
Kurtag Six Moments Musicaux
Schubert String Quartet No. 15 in G major

(Barbican Quartet in Rehearsal)

The Barbican Quartet’s concert on October 8th was well-attended, despite all current difficulties, and the audience was rewarded by an exceptionally exciting evening. 

Billed to follow Britten’s second quartet, the players began unexpectedly with Kurtag’s ‘ Six Moments Musicaux’. These are pieces of alternating extreme delicacy and bite, full of exquisitely-judged string effects, sometimes almost inaudible, sometimes aggressive, sometimes lyrical – fugitive visions. 

The Britten followed without a break which gave us an intriguing ‘innocent ear’ experience. Britten’s own advances in idiom and grasp of string writing make this one of the masterpieces of the period. Although written 60 years before the Kurtag, the quartet feels as daring and inventive as anything written since and the Barbican gave a performance of real virtuosity and power, the crashing C major chords of the final variation having epic strength.

Their performance of the massive Schubert G major quartet proved that the Barbican quartet is equal to any demands composers might have created in any period. From gorgeous cantabile and idiomatic Viennoiserie through extreme ferocity, almost frenzied virtuosity and expressive power this was memorable playing received by the audience with deserved bravos.

Review​er: ​John Hawkins

Photograp​her: Chris Darwin