Martinu Quartet

MICHAEL DRAKE John Innes Centre, Colney, Norwich


After the Czech quartet's charming cellist described the venue for the opening concert of the N&N Music Club's new season as "one of the best halls they have played in" (they appeared in the last concert of 2001) it was not surprising that their performance on Saturday ranks as one of the finest.

Their tonal clarity was marked all evening particularly in contrasting string quartets by Haydn and Debussy. The first might be described as music to live by and the other, the composer's only one of that genre, a musical canvas. Haydn's G minor Quartet No 74, nicknamed "The Rider", galloped through its opening movement with a following andante of autumnal colouring, the whole having a joie de vivre, with one or two surprises and played as if on unfettered springs.

Debussy's effort, set nominally in the same key, leaves the listener to make what he will of the opening – my images were of a countryside, colourful, moving and ever-changing.

The Martinu then followed the "rhythme" instructions to great effect before wandering delightfully through the slow movement to a finale which was an extension of the opening.

Pianist Christopher Langdown joined the quartet for Frank Bridge's Piano Quintet in D minor – its first performance in Norwich despite the composer's strong East Anglian connections. An expansive opening movement dialogue between keyboard and strings moved from an elegant adagio opening to a total change as Langdown set the pace emphatically as a precursor to a free-flowing and ebullient finale. The dictionary says music is "defining sounds to achieve beauty of form". The whole evening was indeed beautifully formed.