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The players drew out the emotional darkness

Bachtrack, Phil Parker
Four Stars

The String Quartet in C major, Op.61 is the American’s immediate predecessor, though over a decade elapsed between the two. Given its relative obscurity, it was brave of Ensemble 360 to make this the centrepiece of their programme. Was it a risk worth taking? The answer, on this evidence, was a qualified yes… the players relaxed into the task, with Ben Nabarro’s first violin singing sweetly and the other parts highlighting the folk-like rhythmic motifs being passed to and fro.

“… the players drew out the emotional darkness and turbulence of the first movement… [of Dvořák’s String Quintet No.2 in G major, Op.77] development section. The high point was undoubtedly the slow movement, in which the players exchanged the gently rocking cantabile melody with great tenderness and, after the passionate climax in which the double bass came to the fore, gently wound down the tension as the initial melody floated into higher and higher registers before its finely-spun web disappeared into silence.”

If the closing work highlighted sonic beauty, the opening item on the programme, Britten’s Three Divertimenti for String Quartet… the second movement Waltz was charming and the final Burlesque fizzed with relentless energy.

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