FRANK CLIFF Norfolk and Norwich Festival event at the Assembly House, Norwich
Still in their final year at the Royal Academy, the Artea Quartet made an impressive festival debut at their lunchtime recital with works by Beethoven and Britten.
They blend well, their ensemble and inclination are excellent, and their performance of Beethoven's last Opus 18 in B flat was most assured.
The quick movements had a freshness and vitality aided by some brusque tempi – perhaps a trifle too brisk in the scherzo for the syncopated rhythms to make their impact – and the sound generally was well balanced, especially so in the beautiful Malincolia section of the final movement.
If they were impressive in the Beethoven, they were equally, if not more so, in what proved to be Britten's final work – his third quartet.
Its five contrasting movements present a challenge both technically and artistically to any quartet and the Artea responded to the challenge brilliantly.
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What impressed most was not the fireworks of the fast ostinato, or the wild burlesque, fine as these were, but their realisation of the sparse and searching textures of the score, especially of the elegaic last movement.
Here is an ensemble who can stay calm under fire and of whom one hopes to hear more.f