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Powerful Forces

Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms
from The Navarra Quartet and Simon Lane,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


The Navarra Quartet is an up-and-coming Anglo-Dutch Ensemble which has already won a number of prizes and awards. If this evening [26 April 2006, Derby Chamber Music at Murray Park School, Mickleover, Derby, UK] was anything to go by, there will be more.

They launched Mozart's B flat Quartet, K589 with ear-catchingly urbane, smoothly-blended playing. They brought a sinewy strength to the extraordinarily extended, densely argued trio section of the minuet, and found plenty of drama in the finale. The flair with which the frequent viola/cello dialogues were projected was delightful. Intonation was occasionally off-centre, though, and the witty contrapuntal interplay of the finale could have afforded to smile a bit more.

Cellist Nathaniel Boyd was then joined by pianist Simon Lane for Beethoven's last cello sonata, Op 102 No 2, in which they had the music's lyricism and dynamic energy in almost ideal balance. The slow movement's contrasting middle section was allowed to bloom in a particularly effective way, and the finale was full of playful wit.

After the interval all five players came together for one of the most gripping accounts of the Brahms Piano Quintet I think I've heard. Their flowing tempo for the slow movement found the poetry while leaving no room for self-indulgence. They set fast tempos for the last two movements, too, but nothing felt rushed. Rather, there was a compelling sense of powerful forces only just kept under control. It was just the kind of rhythmically taut, muscular playing the work needs -- hair-raising for all the right reasons.

Copyright © 4 May 2006 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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