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Faultless Unanimity

A concert by The Roberts Quartet,
enjoyed by MIKE WHEELER


Here's another talented ensemble from the Royal Northern College of Music. The Roberts Quartet plays with a confidence that is not concerned with drawing attention to itself, their warm, clear tone and faultless unanimity is completely at the service of the music.

Mozart's Quartet in A, K169, got the concert (Derby Chamber Music, Multi-Faith Centre, Derby University, Derby, UK, 18 January 2008) off to a confident start. A relatively early work, it may not be very demanding interpretatively, but it requires the kind of neat, elegant performance it got here. In the second movement we glimpse something of the expressive power that was to develop in Mozart's later work. The Roberts Quartet kept it nicely in scale, eloquent but not unduly weighty.

Shostakovich's 13th Quartet could scarcely have been more of a contrast. The players explored its mixture of sardonic bite and desolate lyricism with a sure touch, and with a firm grip on the architecture of its single movement.

After the interval came the Quartet no 6 by David Matthews, a welcome sign of interest in contemporary composers. Growing out of a short memorial piece, its three compact movements cover a wide range of expression, through which the players moved with complete assurance. In particular, they were fully alive to the second movement's exploratory changes of mood and tempo.

In a late change to the advertised programme, the evening ended with Dvorák's ever-appealing 'American' Quartet. The Roberts' performance was not just another outing for a favourite work, but had something genuinely engaging to say about it. In the second movement they brought out a Schubertian influence (specifically the slow movement of the C major Quintet) I had not really been conscious of before, while the trio sections of the scherzo were darker than we often hear. For the finale the Quartet set off at a spanking pace but it didn't feel rushed, moving with easy grace as well as energy.

Copyright © 13 February 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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