BILL NEWMAN listens
to the Razumovsky Ensemble
Wonderful Mozart String Quintets (minus K614) spread over the two dates at London's Wigmore Hall. On 6 May 2008 Schubert's String Trio movement in B flat, D471 preceded Mozart Quintets K515 and K516. On 9 May String Quintet K406 (a re-scored version of the Wind Serenade K388) was the centrework surrounded by Quintets K174 and K593.
The performers, other than their charismatic organizer and master cellist Oleg Kogan require introductions. Gordon Nikolitch is a pupil of Jean Jacques Nikolitch, studied with Lutoslowski and Kurtag which lead to his obvious appointment as the London Symphony Orchestra's leader. David Alberman studied with Igor Ozim (pupil of Max Rostal), long time chamber music partner of Ilse von Alpenheim, the widow of conductor Antal Dorati. Both performed and recorded unforgettable Mozart and Schubert. Alberman was also a member of the Arditti Quartet. Violists Philip Dukes and Scott Dickinson hail from London and Glasgow, respectively. They become the close examination of the old lady in front of me, herself a violist, who was interested in tone production -- she had a coughing fit when standing up and had to sit down to recover. Her husband was a wind player and was concerned about the rescoring of K388, preferring the original of three years earlier with its grainier sound. He asked me a pertinent question: 'I notice all this sliding up to notes and full tone playing. Isn't this against the grain with original instruments ruling the roost?' I replied that I preferred listening to instrumentalists playing full out and regretted the change. I quoted Beecham and Vaughan Williams.
Schubert's solitary completed movement suggested a pre-marital courting stage by loving couples. It was the perfect foil to Mozart's K515 and K516, the one contrasting high spirits, intimacy, drama, a dance like Menuetto, harmonic richness and a delight in fast speeds and rhythmic exuberance, the other in the composer's favourite G minor key leading from sorrow, intensity, a cantabile subject with chromatic overtones, muted instruments suggesting melancholy, then a cavatina prefacing a jovial Allegro.
Quintet in B flat K174 was couched with Mozart's close friend and colleague Michael Haydn in mind. Also, his three Italian visits introduced him to the string works and operas of Sammartini, Martini and Jomelli, with their ideas and thematic styles quickly incorporated into this more sparse, direct, yet high original Mozart chamber work in four movements. K406 has already been explained away, yet I prefer its richer string textures to the original K388, which leaves the String Quintet in D major, K593. The cello features prominently which suggests the King of Prussia's prowess on this instrument. The cellist is also the catalyst for the two violinists and two violists as they introduce new themes and fresh developments in the course of this very mature work. I look forward to the Razumovskys' next instalment.
Copyright © 25 August 2008
Bill Newman, Edgware UK