MIKE WHEELER listens
to the Atrium Quartet
Formed in St Petersburg and currently based in Berlin, the Atrium Quartet has been winning consistently high praise, and their technically very impressive playing showed why (Derby Chamber Music, Multi-Faith Centre, Derby University, Derby, UK, 16 October, 2009).
The first movement of Haydn's Quartet Op 77 No 2 had a real spring in its step, and the third was deeply thoughtful. The second and fourth movements were not quite so successful. The playing was astonishingly nimble and precise, but some of the finale went by in a blur, and Haydn's jokes need a little more space in order to make their effect.
In Tchaikovsky's Quartet No 3, the first movement was played with vigour and an alert response to the music's expressive twists and turns. The quartet's deeply felt response to the third movement didn't go flat out for instant angst but was all the more effective for a more measured approach, with the chant passages nicely understated. Their speed and dexterity in the last movement was again remarkable, and better suited to Tchaikovsky's broader brush-strokes than Haydn's intricate details.
The evening ended with a highly satisfying account of Schubert's D minor Quartet (Death and the Maiden). It was such a refreshing change to hear a performance that was not relentlessly doom-laden. The players knew exactly when to lighten up, with the result that, for example the scherzo's trio section felt more like genuinely alternative reality than unattainable illusion. Establishing a strong narrative feel in the first movement, they made more of the Beethoven influence than other performances I've heard. There was no lack of drive in the finale but this performance proposed as strong a link with the Ninth Symphony as with Winterreise -- not the relentless ride to the abyss we often hear, but invigorating, even (dare I say it) life-enhancing.
Copyright © 25 October 2009