Concert Review

Coull Quartet
Lion Ballroom, Leominster
12 October 2012

An Espressivo promotion

The Coull String Quartet was on sparkling form in this Espressivo concert. They opened with the Schubert A minor “Rosamunde” which was given an affectionate performance with emphasis on the broad cantabile lines which we know and love. The second half of their programme consisted of two concise quartets, the première of Derek Smith’s Quartet No 4 in D minor and Beethoven’s last, in F major, Opus 135.

The Smith proved compelling as it encompassed a wide range of emotion in a mere twenty minute span. His highly original musical language is chromatic without verging on the atonal, the first and last movements framing a threnody in memory of a lost friend and a rumbustious scherzo which the Coull dispatched with aplomb. The skilful scoring for strings permitted use of passing dissonance without the harshness which sometimes pervades contemporary music. Perhaps this is the best yet of Smith’s output, which is dedicated to the Coull, who gave it a wholly persuasive debut which was not diminished by the proximity of its illustrious neighbours Beethoven and Schubert.

Beethoven’s Op 135 is for many of us the pinnacle of quartet writing. It is difficult for any ensemble to convey something fresh about it but the Coull produced many insights, particularly in the beautifully intoned slow movement with its contrasting variations. From the deliberately fragmented opening to the confident jokiness of the finale we were led on a musical journey ending in hope.

Our thanks once again to Espressivo for maintaining, and even raising, the very high artistic standards set by their promotions.

A.R. Robinson

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