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Review The Endellion String Quartet

Tom Goodhand is moved by this well-respected quartet

Review: The Endellion String Quartet

The Endellion String Quartet are widely regarded as one of the finest string quartets in Britain. Formed back in 1979, they have regularly toured around the globe, worked with the BBC, won the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Best Chamber Ensemble and also talke plaudits from the likes of the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian.

The quartet have been visiting Leeds as part of Leeds International Concert Season and playing a series of performances for a number of years now. Their dates in Leeds are regularly sold out, with many opting to book for all four of their dates and take in the full scope of their repertoire.

The evening we go down is the final of their four dates, previous programmes this year have always opened with a work by Haydn, and have been followed by composers such as Schubert, Mendelssohn, Mozart and Bartók.

On the 29th June, we are treated to Haydn’s Quartet Opt 33, No 1, Britten’s Quartet No 1 and Beethoven’s Quartet Op 130, with Grosse Fuge. Each of the three pieces are relatively well-known and at least two – Britten’s and Beethoven’s – are technically troublesome to anything but the most talented musicians.

The musicianship is breathtaking, as it’s the energy and the exuberance of the performers – in full tux and dickie bows, despite the oppressive heat in The Venue at Leeds College of Music – rocking and swaying with the music and keeping close eye contact with one-another during the more difficultly-timed interplay. And while Haydn’s composition is grand, the real highlights are the first two movements of Britten’s Quartet No 1. While it may be his first published composition for a quartet (unpublished works have been found since) there’s no sign of that in the delicate pizzicato on the cello of the first movement ‘Allegro moderator’ and in the fun, electric-shock like motifs that crop up at irregular intervals throughout the playful ‘Algretto con slancio’.

Beethoven’s Quartet Op 130, with Grosse Fuge is also a stunning, yet complex, piece of work, one which clearly requires great skills to perform and is packed full of emotional intensity that even a relative novice like myself can’t help to get sucked in by.

When the Beethoven comes to an end the reaction is near rabid joy. The largely elderly audience clap, cheer, stand, and even stamp their feet in appreciation of a very fine performance indeed. A great introduction into the power and majesty of some very great works.

The Endellion String Quartet performed at The Venue in Leeds College of Music on 29 June as part of Leeds International Concert Season

Posted on Thursday 1st July 2010

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