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Beautifully Handled

Haydn, Dvorák and Lawrie Rose
from the Iuventus Quartet,


Derby Chamber Music has been fostering a relationship with the Iuventus Quartet, which includes local girl, cellist Katherine Jenkinson. The local connections went even deeper on this occasion (Multi-Faith Centre, Derby University, Derby, UK, 30 January 2009), with the première of Danses pour Quatuor by Lawrie Rose. The society's former chairman, he took early retirement few years ago, moved to Chicago with his new wife, and has been composing prolifically since.

The Iuventus String Quartet. From left to right: Ruth Rogers, Rose Redgrave, Katherine Jenkinson and Elizabeth Williams
The Iuventus String Quartet. From left to right: Ruth Rogers, Rose Redgrave, Katherine Jenkinson and Elizabeth Williams

Danses pour Quatuor is a suite of six movements, and a much more substantial piece than the title implies. Taking us through a succession of dances in historical sequence, from Rigaudon to Blue Foxtrot, it is expertly scored, witty, and compellingly argued. If it occasionally nods in the direction of other music -- Shostakovich-with-a-dash-of-Hindemith in the first movement, Ravel in the fifth -- it does so without sounding in the least bit derivative. The muted, scurrying sonorities in the third movement, Walzer, were very effective, as was the inconclusive ending of the fourth, Tango (Quasi Habanera). The concluding Invention satisfyingly tied the threads of the work together. The performance had impressive energy and commitment.

The concert opened with Haydn's Quartet Op 76 No 4. After a gently ethereal start, the playing soon acquired plenty of spirit. The Adagio moved effectively between serenity and intensity; the Minuet was deftly handled, though the performance missed some of the trio's half-lit mystery. The increases of tempo in the finale were expertly negotiated.

Dvorák's A flat Quartet, Op 105, is a peach of a work, not heard as much as it deserves. The Iuventus Quartet found an apt balance between energy and introspection. The seamless move out of the first movement's slow introduction was beautifully handled, and the more brooding passages near the end and in the third movement were given just enough weight without overburdening them. Elsewhere the playing had a delicious feel of light, airy vigour and playfulness.

Copyright © 16 February 2009 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


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