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Global Musicians, Explosive Cocktail

 

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 prize.

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.

Nevertheless, 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.



John Sidgwick writes on music in Britain and France for Culturekiosque.com.

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