By John Sidgwick
LONDON, 9 May 2002 - Take four highly-accomplished
instrumentalists from different origins - a violinist, a viola player,
a cellist and a pianist - let them work together at chamber music and
you can often be treated to rewarding performances. But when these
same instrumentalists are endowed with the asset of youth, the result
can be electrifying.
Such was the case on 3rd May when a
packed house at the Wigmore Hall witnessed a performance of Brahms's
Piano Quartet No.1 in G minor that can rarely have been
matched for drive and intensity.
The Fidelio Piano Quartet
is made up the violinist Tamás András from Hungary, the
violist Maya Rasooly from Israel, the cellist Gemma Rosefield from
England and the pianist Inon Barnatan, also from Israel. The four, who
were already seasoned soloists, met in 2000 in the course of their
studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where they founded
their quartet. Following intensive coaching by Sigmund Nissel, Norbert
Brainin and Michael Düssek, the quartet has already carried off
an impressive number of awards and the Wigmore Hall concert was their
recompense for winning the Friends of the Royal Academy of Music
The concert opened with Mozart's Piano Quartet No.
1 in G minor, K 478 and the young artists immediately impressed
with the professionalism of their approach. They displayed impeccable
tone and articulation and their performance could hardly be faulted.
This piece, however, was the one item in their programme where their
youth was against them. For it is a sad fact that in general, Mozart's
chamber music is not for young performers. A number of great
instrumentalists have admitted that it was only with the passage of
years that they had been able to get beyond the notes and be in a
position to convey something of the eternal enigma of Mozart's musical
world, that mystery where the seemingly light-hearted cascades of
notes can conceal darkest drama. And often, it is the sheer simplicity
of a phrase in a major key that has a heart-breaking intensity to it.
A phrase of this sort occurs twice in the closing Rondo of the
G minor quartet. Four bars in all, a descent and an ascent. Nothing
could be simpler. Yet it comes out of the blue as it were and it is as
though the whole substance of the rest of the movement is a
preparation ground for these simple notes. Make no mistake about it,
however: the Fidelio Quartet are well up to the expression of such a
phrase. But I do have the feeling that should they play the work in,
say, twenty years time, they will be able to convey just that
heightened sense of "somewhere else" that the music implies.
and however all that may be, the other items on the programme, the
Piano Quartet in E flat Op.47 by Schumann and the
earlier-mentioned quartet by Brahms, were right up the Fidelio
Quartet's street. It is somewhat surprising that the Schumann quartet
is not more frequently heard, for it contains some wonderful pages. On
this occasion, the quartet brought to light the many qualities of the
music, and such was their lyricism in the Andante cantabile
that one was led to wish that they would quite simply play it again.
As for the Brahms quartet, this was the moment when the
instrumentalists were able to display their individual qualities, at
the same time melding into the whole. Inon Barnatan, whose ramrod back
and scintillating brilliance recall the great Artur Rubinstein, shone
throughout. The violinist, Tamás András, brought beauty
of tone and Hungarian flair to the scene, particularly in the Rondo
alla Zingarese. He is one of those violinists whose instrument seems
to be part and parcel of him and I can quite well see him at the head
of a string quartet in the great traditions of his country. Maya
Rasooly, a relatively recent recruit to the viola, showed that she is
a born performer on the instrument and each of her solo entries was
pertinent and telling. As for the cellist, Gemma Rosefield, she once
again showed that even at the tender age of twenty, she has developed
into a truly remarkable chamber-music player. The security she lends
to the performance, together with her innate musicality and technical
excellence, means that anything she takes part in is bound to be
enhanced by her presence.
It is in the nature of things that
these young musicians, in the furtherance of their careers, will
almost certainly find themselves living and working far away from each
other. It is to be hoped, nevertheless, that they can manage to devote
some time each year for work and concerts. The promise of their debut
merits sustained development.
Sidgwick writes on music in Britain and France for Culturekiosque.com.