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Pinnacle of chamber music

CLASSICA Magazine, Alexandra Corrin

“Choc du Mois” Award
(“Hit of the Month”)

A quintet at the pinnacle.

The ensemble assembled around violinist Christian Tetzlaff takes hold of the “Cello Quintet” in a burning and incisive manner, a far cry from the luminous fullness of the Emerson Quartet with Rostropovich (Deutsche Gramophon, 1990), or the orchestral thickness of the romantic Weller Quartet with Gürtler (Decca, 1970) or the elegant Alban Berg Quartet with Schiff (Warner, 1982).

With the tempo moving along, the first movement, light, almost dry, is weightless in anticipating the second beats, in detailing the voices, and the subtle time taken by the quintet at the reprise, barely pressing the nuances, holds us back even more.

Reaching new heights in the finesse of the texture, the first violin leading the discussion with an inventiveness and a variety of colours in its simple pointed interjections, sometimes luminous, vibrant, on a knife-edge, straight, or almost muffled, the second movement leads into an intense central section full of struggle and complaint, running out of breath in the offbeats of a wildly beating heart.

A sickly dance on the edge of the abyss, dry, arid, the Scherzo becomes a trio, suddenly cradled in a forest of strings, and at the reprise sounds like a joyful awakening, the return of youth.

The Allegretto, spirited, determined, elegant and virtuosic, punctuated by moments of humour from the violin, concludes this pinnacle of chamber music with joy.

Translated from French

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The core repertoire for viola and piano is not extensive. Part of it are these three works, which violist Rachel Roberts and pianist Lars Vogt put together in a complex programme. Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata seems to flow lightly, but is actually most profound music. Who else than the then only 27-year old composer could have so elegantly and skillfully translated life’s tragedies into music? Britten’s series of variations Lachrymae is a labyrinth of interwoven feelings with a sombre touch, posing the listener many a riddle. One senses the existential nature of Shostakovich’s last composition, too, the viola sonata op. 147, which was written by the dying composer in his last two months.

Rachel Roberts plays these masterworks with a light, breathing sound, which is never forced or pushed excessively. A simplicity prevails, never showing off or trying too much. Rather than mere size and volume, Roberts focuses on the variability of colours and subtle dynamic nuances.

It’s very convincing how Lars Vogt’s versatility helps shape this line. If the score demands it, he is able to grow to a real lion on the piano, and in the next moment retreat into the world of the quietest sounds. He has proven it many times as a chamber musician, especially at his own festival “Spannungen” in Heimbach, of which there are many live-recordings on the CAvi-label.

The authenticity of the febrile and rich sound they created, together with their intensity of emotion, made this most memorable

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“Beethoven: Music in Revolution was the ambitious title given to this five-day festival, curated and performed by the Gould Piano Trio and friends. It offered an absorbing historical perspective on a composer who subverted rules, pushed boundaries and used shock tactics, as well as capturing his rigour and passion.”

“Violinist Gould and Frith combined fire and expressive power in Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata, and its pairing with Janáček’s Kreutzer Sonata string quartet, based on Tolstoy’s short story of the same name, was inspired. David Adams, Gould, Rachel Roberts and Alice Neary may not formally be a quartet, but the authenticity of the febrile and rich sound they created, together with their intensity of emotion, made this most memorable.”

Fire and expressive power

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Superb performances

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