Dvořák’s American Quartet got the second recital in a three-part series devoted to music’s ties with the world’s greatest oceans and seas off to a spirited start.
If it was somewhat evident at the opening, that this was a specially-assembled quartet, rather than one that had played together regularly, very soon things settled under the poised leadership of Pierre-Emmanuel Largeron.
In fact, as the programme progressed, the playing grew in stature confidence overall, with a version of Copland’s lively Hoe Down, and Paul Desmond’s Take Five proving far more effective in performance, and where, in the Dave Brubeck standard, it was great to hear shades of Pierre-Emmanuel’s compatriot Stéphane Grappelli at times.
Arguably the evening’s musical highlight was a little-known quartet by Boulogne, labelled the black Mozart by contemporary audiences, and which drew some accomplished playing from each player.
Villa-Lobos’s First Quartet isn’t cast in the conventional four movements, but consists of six shorter ones, combining the sounds and rhythms of Brazilian popular song and dance, and where Andrew Gillett’s fine viola tone made an especially telling contribution in the Canto Lirico movement.
A well-paced reading of Piazzolla’s Libertango proved an effective conclusion, to which Gershwin’s Summertime added a well-deserved encore, distinguished by some nice jazz phrases from the first violin, and which showed Pierre-Emmanuel equally at home in a variety of musical styles and genres.
PHILIP R BUTTALL