Monday 22 June 2009

Aldeburgh 2009: The Minetti Quartet play Haydn, Webern and Beethoven

Another day at Aldeburgh and another new venue, this time the Jubilee Hall. I have fond memories of the hall - there was a superb concert here a few years back titled Tchaikovsky Cabaret, which featured Grainger's superb reduction for solo piano of the first concerto as well as a piece that was so vicious that it required Ades to wear gloves while he played it. During the following piece it quickly became apparent that the piano had been broken and the spare had to be wheeled out. Fortunately no such instrumental damage occurred this morning.

The concert marked one of the nice things about the festival, that a lot of work from young and upcoming musicians features prominently. The appearance of the Minetti Quartet is part of Aldeburgh's annual exchange with L'Academie du Festival d'Aix-en-Provence.

Their comparatively short programme began, as so many this festival have, with some Haydn in the form of his quartet in G major, op.64/4. This was very nicely played indeed. It was light, joyful and playful, in short what a Haydn quartet ought to be. Interestingly, for this they arranged themselves slightly differently from the standard quartet with, from left to right, first violin, cello, viola and second violin. Unfortunately the programme only lists five of them.

This was followed by Webern's Six Bagatelles, op.9, and with this they switched back to the more standard violin, violin, viola, cello layout. While they seemed well played, they didn't grab me as a work, seeming rather too miniature. Each only lasted around a minute or so (or less) and seemed to be over before it had said anything much (for similar reasons so much of last year's Kurtag passed me by). It was a stark contrast with Bartok's Bagatelles a few days ago.

After the brief interval they finished with a fine reading of Beethoven's quartet in E minor, op.59/2. This too was good, but like the Haydn, never seemed in any danger of greatness. I also felt that the quartet wasn't quite as well balanced as it might have been, with the playing of first violin Maria Ehmer consistently standing out over the others.

Still, it was an enjoyable way to start the day.

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