St Petersburg Quartet

MICHAEL DRAKE John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park


Chamber music weekends are becoming one of the Norfolk and Norwich Music Club's hallmarks.

The popularity of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich was evident from the opening programme on Saturday, when queues formed for “returns” and Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A minor received enthusiastic acclaim.

Sunday morning showed the ensemble to be chamber music artists of the highest calibre and their performance of Tchaikovsky's Quartet No 2 moved from a quiet opening of quite remarkable fluency and richness of tone until the music gently meandered through its final few bars.

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In contrast, in the Shostakovich 8th Quartet, passion was defined in a rather more angry manner in a quite stark work as the movement was dominated by the oft-repeated monogram motif over sonorous cello foundations.

An (unnecessary) encore was offered and still of Russian music, as Borodin (This is my Beloved) was played more romantically than I guess may have been heard by many before.

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And so to the afternoon concert in which pianist Sergey Urivaev again joined the quartet for Shostakovich's Piano Quintet in G minor. An uncompleted keyboard opening of extreme clarity continued as the strings took up the Prelude's theme while the Fugue was marked by a woven texture which left each instrument discernible.

Melodic violin and piano in the Scherzo led to a martial Finale and quite delightful end to the piece. The same composer's String Quartet No 9 showed another side – amusing and light-hearted in the opening movement and lively in the Allegro, which showed the quartet's ability to change colour and mood.

The final session began with a wonderfully lyrical theme from the first violin over pizzicato accompaniment in Tchaikovsky's Third Quartet.

This was romantic passion with warmth as well as subtlety with the addition of rhythmic movement and changes of pace. Musical gossip in the second movement became all-enveloping with a Finale built on mellifluous cello sound to complete another success.

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