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<<  -- 3 --  Malcolm Miller    BEETHOVEN PREMIÈRE?


The outer movements were more open to debate. On the plus side was the intriguingly ornate solo piano part, with florid additions, one may speculate, to compensate for the thinner strings. However there is still a doubt as to whether these annotations were intended for performance, or merely sketches which Beethoven rejected as he often did with over-developed ideas, as for instance in the case of the first version of the Op 18 No 1 quartet. Even so in this brightly pointed account the new piano part (which certain pianists have used in the orchestral version) came across as fresh and distinct, passagework rising to new peaks, and polyphonic interplay different from the original part. And with the new pared down balance new facets of the orchestration emerged, new viola and piano counterpoints and more audibility for some solo material.

However in the outer movements the thinner textures sometimes betrayed a lack of depth and rhythmic activity suggesting something 'missing'. Certainly it was necessary thus to re-aclimatise oneself -- to avoid constant comparisons with the original, particularly the lack of the double bass lower octave, so eloquent in the orchestral version, and the often pulsating textures, here conveyed in the main by the extra viola, as in the first movement. Yet thanks to the engaging performance the exciting momentum and colourful sonority contributed to the impression that this version can indeed stand as a successful independent chamber work. One awaits a recording with eager anticipation!

The work was programmed in between a delightful performance of Schubert's Quartet No 10 in E flat Op 125, in which the Vilnius Quartet displayed their refined tonal qualities especially in the simple beauty of the hymn-like slow movement and the bristling delicacy of the finale. And as a contrast of mood, Franck's Piano Quintet concluded with full-blooded romantic passion and sensuality. The chromatic motifs and swirling textures, at times almost over the top, were conveyed with exciting vigour and drama, notably the urgent rhetoric in the first movement, dialogues between piano and strings, so reminiscent of the Violin Sonata, interrupted by pregnant silences. Miss Rubackyté propelled the leonine piano part, originally premièred by none other than Saint-Saens (who, so it is related, despite Franck's dedication of the piece to him, cast the score into the dustbin) with clarity and richness, highlighting to bold effect the unifying themes which permeate the three movements. It was a stirring performance to round off a memorable evening.

Copyright © 28 April 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK






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