Stamic Quartet

FRANK CLIFF John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney


Saturday's recital provided a programme of Czech music performed by a Czech quartet and, from the beginning, the Stamic Quartet seized the audience's attention with their highly charged committed playing.

First, a dynamic performance in an unfamiliar work; Erwin Shulhoff's second quartet of 1926.

Shulhoff's principal influences were Schoenberg and Berg, yet this quartet proved immediately accessible.

There was more than a nod to Czech folk music here and there and the work has a very beautiful and exquisitely performed theme and variations as a slow movement.

It is recognisably of its period though, as the Stamic's characterful playing made clear it has an idiosyncratic style of its own.

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This last point is of course even more applicable to the music of Janacek and undoubtedly their performance of his second quartet, Intimate Letters, was the high point of the evening.

Technically it was superb and I have seldom heard the contrast between the passionate intensity and sensitivity of this music so vividly expressed.

After such an emotionally rewarding experience, Dvorak's American quartet seemed almost like light relief.

It was superbly played as one might expect of artists of whom this music is in their very bones.

After such a well-balanced programme an encore seemed almost superfluous and the minuet from Mozart's K421, very immaculately played, seemed an odd, somewhat serious choice.

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