The Strad, April 2015

Concert 25th January 2015

St John's Smith Square

     It may have taken a few moments to adjust to the sound of a period-instrument quartet in St John's Smith Square - a space that dwarfs the domestic environment evoked by this ensemble's title - but once one had surmounted the lack of immediacy (which would afflict most modern quartets in this venue), the alternative tonal hue quickly became attractive.

     These Classical instruments may have allowed for more bite in the opening of Beethoven's 'Serioso' Quartet op.95 and more detail, such as in the cello's trilling before the first movement's development section, but it was in the slow movement that the Drawing Room excelled. Here the expressive force came entirely from within the music, combining an almost sublime spaciousness with a surely paced flow. The first movement of Haydn's Quartet in E flat major op.20 no.1 may have seemed a touch flat in profile but the players struck a graceful stride in the Allegretto affettuoso. Beethoven's 'Harp' Quartet op.74 was enriched by a sense of scale, yet its tempestuous third-movement Presto lacked nothing in raw, skirling energy. A more intimate space might have allowed the players to make more colouristic play of tonal effects, but these were nevertheless purposeful and revealing performances.

- Edward Bhesania