Emperor Quartet, Norwich

FRANK CLIFF Haydn's String Quartet Opus 50 No 3 and Martinu's Fourth both show conscious mastery of the medium, indebtedness to their native music and an infectious vitality.

FRANK CLIFF

Haydn's String Quartet Opus 50 No 3 and Martinu's Fourth both show conscious mastery of the medium, indebtedness to their native music and an infectious vitality.

The Haydn has all the charm, elegance and wisdom of the High Classical style and the Emperor Quartet gave a performance at the John Innes Centre, Colney, that was beautifully paced; full of personality while never overstepping the boundaries.

Martinu's Fourth Quartet dates from his time in Paris immediately before the second world war. Relaxed and optimistic it made an excellent foil to the Haydn. There was clear incisive playing from the Emperor, who despatched Martinu's tricky rhythms with great panache.

However, the real meat of the evening's recital came with the final work: Elgar's Piano Quintet, which together with the Violin Sonata and the String Quartet comprised all Elgar's chamber music. All three works were written in his final years and the quintet shows Elgar at his most profound. This is music on a grand scale which, alas, this performance failed to realise. To a degree this stemmed from the restrained approach of pianist Ian Fountain, one seldom mirrored in the committed playing of the strings, but which made for a disappointing finale.