Review: 24 March 2022 – The Carducci String Quartet with Peter Lale

Matt Denton violin, Michelle Fleming violin,
Eoin Schmidt-Martin viola, Emma Denton cello, with Peter Lale viola

  • Fanny Mendelssohn String Quartet in E flat
  • Shostakovich String Quartet No.9 in E flat, Op.117
  • Mozart String Quintet (viola) No.4 in G, K.516

The Forum Theatre was packed for the Carducci String Quartet’s return to Malvern. The three pieces they chose presented stimulating and interesting contrasts and great listening pleasure. In Fanny Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E flat the plaintive opening in the relative minor developed into music full of expression and passion, with surging short passages. The beautifully blended sound of the quartet was immediately apparent. The Allegretto which followed, with running semiquavers throughout, reminded one of Felix Mendelssohn, but as Matt Denton pointed out later, Fanny was a powerful influence on Felix. The Romanze, built on a 2 note descending sighing motif, was filled with passionate contrasts – tumultuous moments alternating with sadder pianissimo passages. In the concluding Molto Vivace, in rocking triple time, flourishes of semiquavers flowed from one instrument to another in almost perpetual motion. There were dreamier moments too, but the movement retained its energy right to the end.

The Shostakovich String Quartet No.9 in E flat was a great contrast. Matt Denton spoke of its mixture of comedy and tragedy, of wild crazy anarchy and dark melancholy. Early in the first movement the brief atonality established its 20th Century musical world. Its five linked movements had a very episodic feel, full of contrasts of every kind – rhythmic, harmonic, textural and stylistic. There were many moments of dissonance, but at times a feel of Russian folk music. After this performance, exciting and gripping throughout, it was no surprise to read that the quartet have received a Royal Philharmonic Society Award for their performances of the complete Shostakovich quartets.

The quartet was joined by Peter Lale on second Viola for Mozart’s String Quintet No.4 in G Minor. Analyses of this work emphasise its three movements of intense pathos followed by an insouciant and carefree finale, but I found the whole work full of vitality and deeply satisfying. As Harold Bloom said, “I go back to the G Minor Quintet for comfort, sometimes when I am most desperate. The kind of consolation it affords [helps] me to bear myself in the despair of solitude.” This wonderful ensemble again showed their complete performing empathy throughout. Their smiles as they performed made their own enjoyment plain, an enjoyment which was shared by the whole audience.

Malcolm Macleod 2022