Live Music

Tokyo String Quartet, Bath International Music Festival, June 2, 2011

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Posted on 4th June 2011

Tokyo String Quartet

Bath International Music Festival

Assembly Rooms

Thursday, June 2, 2011
It's reassuring that even in these straitened times ensembles of the quality and reputation of The Tokyo String Quartet can still be brought to the Bath Festival. Anyone attending the quartet's concert at the Assembly Rooms on Tuesday couldn't help but be impressed by the impeccable ensemble the players brought to works by Haydn, Szymanowski and Schumann, not to mention a sweetness of tone which was entirely in keeping with the works performed, as different as those works are in style.
The concert began with Haydn's F major quartet, opus 77/2, his last completed work in the genre. The Tokyo players negotiated each of the four movements with elan, without sacrificing the requisite wit often essential to any Haydn performance. The rhythmic playfulness of the second movement minuet especially was captured to perfection.
The first quartet by the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski inhabits an entirely different sound-world to that of the Haydn, belonging as it does to that expressionist, late-romantic period of music associated with works such as Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht. The perfumed, almost neurotic atmosphere conjured up by the score was evoked well, but perhaps that last ounce of exoticism was missing, the music requiring just a little more space to work its distinctive magic.
Schumann's quartet in A minor was composed in 1842, a year which the composer devoted almost entirely to chamber music. It's unsurprisingly a much warmer, less fevered work than the Szymanowksi and drew an appropriately richer sound from the Tokyo players. The Adagio slow movement in particular featured some superbly lyrical playing from the ensemble and the transition from presto to moderato towards the end of the last movement created a special moment of calm before the finale.
As an encore, and after a warmly appreciative reception from a not quite full house, the Tokyo Quartet played another Haydn minuet, again with charm and panache to spare.

Jonathan Turner

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