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Cultured tone … top-quality musicians

The Arts Desk, David Nice

Review of concerts by The Maggini Quartet on 4th September and by the Solem Quartet and Anthony Friend on 10th September — at the Bandstand Chamber Festival, London.

Music going back to nature, or rather the managed nature of a London park, can make you think and feel quite differently about great composers’ responses to the world around them … To hear Brahms’s late Clarinet Quintet from Anthony Friend and the Solem Quartet on a sunny early evening was to sense not so much autumn as sunset in the music.

Even the adverse side of al fresco music-making could be turned to the good (how unwound we’ve become in our welcome of post-lockdown events). Last Thursday, the first of the three Battersea Park Bandstand events so far to be dogged by planes coming in to Heathrow directly above, the slow movement of Haydn’s E flat Quartet, Op. 76 No. 6 felt like an indelible essence, returning between the overhead noise as an emblem of artistic survival –

especially when played with as much cultured tone as the Solems gave it.

Dogs barked at the one violent string tremolo in the Brahms Quintet, and the thud of running feet around the circle sometimes chimed especially well with the livelier movements.

The Magginis and Solems may not be quite as big name-wise as the Dorics, who kicked off the mini-festival, in the world of the string quartet, but they remind us that there are hundreds of top-quality musicians who don’t get the same recognition as the ubiquitous few… [Solem first violin], Amy Tress, whose sister Stephanie is the cellist, gave a lovely speech just before the Brahms crediting partner Friend for getting the whole thing off the ground and telling us that the Quintet’s slow movement had been special to her since childhood.

She went on to take the melodic line so poetically and inwardly to prove it.

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