FRANK CLIFF John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney
This is the first time I've heard the Dante Quartet in their present incarnation; that is, new second violin, new cello. They began their recital with Mozart's D Major Quartet K499, which, if I've guessed right, aimed at something like period performance with spare use of vibrato and exaggeration of phrasing. It seemed a not-altogether-successful hybrid resulting in a sugary, almost chocolate-box Mozart.
However, they more than made amends with their superb performance of Rubbra's 1st Quartet. It is notoriously difficult to assess the judgment of posterity of a composer during his lifetime or immediately afterwards. For what it's worth, I feel that the passing of time will surely enhance Rubbra's reputation, and why his chamber music is not performed more often I can't imagine. This first quartet is music which makes a vivid first impression, especially in such a vital performance as that of the Dante. The slow movement was especially fine with a lovely viola solo from Judith Bainbridge. She was joined by viola player James Boyd for the performance of Rubbra's Meditation on a Byzantine Hymn: a real rarity this, and most elegant writing for two solo violas.
What hadn't worked so well in the first Mozart quartet worked brilliantly in the last work; his G Minor Viola Quintet; a model of stylish and joyous music making.