Chilingirian String Quartet, Norwich

FRANK CLIFF Chamber music is well provided for in this year's festival, not least the string quartet with three of the finest English ensembles performing in the series at the John Innes Centre.

FRANK CLIFF

Chamber music is well provided for in this year's festival, not least the string quartet with three of the finest English ensembles performing in the series at the John Innes Centre.

Sponsorship for such events may be a necessity, but to find some 60 or so of the best seats in this small hall reserved en bloc for sponsors seemed somewhat disproportionate, especially as this year there is no festival programme and, last night, customers didn't even have any programme notes. It was an irritation, which marred a splendid opening concert with the Chilingirian proving, if it were necessary, that they are one of the greatest ensembles.

The series is devoted mostly to English music, but the Chilingirian began with a splendid performance of the Ravel quartet; a feast of sensual and exciting sound, evoking every subtle nuance of this most intricate and subtle score.

Vaughan Williams is regarded as the quintessence of Englishness, yet he was influenced by the music of Ravel, with whom he studied briefly, and it is tempting to hear a link to Ravel's impressionism in the subtle scoring of V W's rarely heard Fantasy Quartet. in which the Chilingirian were joined by the viola player, Louise Williams.

Unfamiliar yet exquisitely beautiful, invoking the sounds of the Tallis Fantasia and Lark Ascending with a haunting viola solo beautifully played by Asdis Vladimarsdottir.

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Late Elgar, the E minor Quartet provided a wonderful finale, mature music which the Chilingirian obviously have in their very bones.

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