Click here to listen to the Quartetto di Cremona performing Haydn op.76 n.4 Sunrise Menuet.
Four men, three unshaven, enter the room wearing dark suits: certainly not looking like the kind of people you’d like to meet down one of Oxford’s alleys on a dark night. They are, however, the members of the Cremona string quartet, who performed at the Holywell Music Room last Sunday.
The quartet’s intimidating aura was continued by the aggressive opening to Bartok’s string quartet number four, with the slipping of the cello spike at the end of the second movement adding to the drama of the piece. The interesting techniques used by Bartok (such as hitting the string with the wood of the bow) were carried off well by the quartet, and the humorous fourth movement (which is almost entirely pizzicato) induced quiet smiles from the audience at the end.
Following the Bartok, the Italian quartet played one of Beethoven’s opus 59 ‘Razumovsky’ quartets: the vigorous ending of the first movement was particularly impressive technically. The very emotional second movement led into a gracious-sounding minuet: whilst this provided a release of tension after the previous movement, it was perhaps a little uninteresting serving more as a bridge between movements.
Whilst perhaps not to everyone’s taste, I believe that the macho nature of the quartet’s playing was well suited to these Beethoven and Bartok quartets. It was interesting to hear the quartet play the cavatina from Beethoven’s string quartet opus 130 as an encore and its passion contrasted greatly with some of their earlier playing.
The quartet’s music was fascinating to listen to, and their aura very much added to the experience. Should they come and play in Oxford again, they are a must-see for any chamber music listener.
The next coffee concert at the Holywell music room is next Sunday, February 17th, at 11.15am, and will feature cellist Gemma Rosefield playing sonatas by Beethoven and Chopin (tickets available from Tickets Oxford 01865 305305).
by Robin Thompson, Cherwell24 Music Editor