Musicians: Opera North String Quartet
Paul Miller (double bass)
Ian Buckle (piano)
Reviewer: Ron Simpson
This concert by the Opera North String Quartet, comprising section leaders of the Opera North orchestra, fell in the week that the orchestra celebrated the 40th anniversary of its foundation – 40 years with, remarkably, the same leader, David Greed, also first violin in the quartet.
Both works – one, as Greed pointed out, surprisingly obscure, the other possibly the most popular piece of chamber music – were augmented by the orchestra’s other string principal, Paul Miller, on double bass. Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 2, originally a fairly early piece, was later revised and cut from five movements to four in an orthodox configuration, though with the scherzo preceding the slow movement.
The dedication, “To my nation”, suggests the growing Slavic influence as Dvorak developed his own distinctive style. The first two movements, both allegro, are quite intense in tone, with the Scherzo increasingly reminiscent of Slav dance rhythms. An interesting effect of the addition of a double bass is that the cello seems liberated into a prime role as a melodic instrument, both in vivid exchanges with the first violin and, even more so, in the lyricism of the Andante, beautifully played by Jessica Burroughs.
Schubert’s Piano Quintet, “The Trout”, saw the quintet, minus second violin Katherine New, joined by pianist Ian Buckle. In five-movement form, it is dominated, even in prospect, by the fourth movement, a set of variations on Schubert’s own song, “The Trout”. Even in the first movement, the rippling piano figures are suggestive of the song and the memory of it lingers through the animated final Allegro.
The fourth movement finds Schubert seemingly unwilling to let go of his graceful melody, preserving its basic form through all the variations, with Miller’s double bass and David Aspin’s viola re-stating it beneath some of the more vigorous and expansive piano elaborations.
A generally sunny and relaxed piece, the Trout Quintet draws on all Schubert’s qualities of lyrical invention within a basically classical form and, as befits a piece composed for an informal gathering of friends, is suitably democratic in its distribution of melodic lines. Together with the more overtly romantic Dvorak Quintet, it formed an attractive concert of two substantial and appealing works.
The understanding between the musicians, born of a long collaboration in different instrumental settings, brought out all the dynamic and expressive contrasts of both works as well as savouring their more conversational elements.
Reviewed on October 19, 2018 | Image: Contributed