Auryn Quartet at Wigmore Hall: Beethoven Cycle – 2

String Quartet in F minor, Op.95 (Serioso)
String Quartet in A, Op.18/5
String Quartet in C, Op.59/3 (Razumovsky)

Auryn Quartet [Matthias Lingenfelder & Jens Opermann (violins), Stewart Eaton (viola) & Andreas Arndt (cello)]

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 4 January, 2010
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Auryn Quartet. Photograph: Manfred EsserThe Auryn Quartet continued its six-recital traversal of Beethoven’s string quartets at Wigmore Hall (three this month, three in April) with this impressive showing.

The ‘Serioso’ Quartet (which attracted Mahler to amplify it for string orchestra) was given an impulsive and concentrated performance, slightly precipitate at times, but yielding to some expressive solos from Matthias Lingenfelder. What was particularly gratifying was the musicians’ assured interplay (they have been together for nearly 30 years) that brought suspense to the middle movements, not least in revealing Beethoven’s harmonic daring; by contrast, the finale was sympathetically turned to its sentimental side, and the scurrying coda wiped away any tears.

As centrepiece, the fifth of the Opus 18 set was given a particularly rewarding account, the musicians delighting in the Haydenesque frivolities of the first movement and delivering the whole with an honesty that penetrated to the core of Beethoven’s restless imagination, not least in the third-movement Theme and Variations – Beethoven the country-bumpkin and sensitive sophisticate rolled into one, the Auryn musicians not afraid to jolly-up the fugal writing. The finale scampered mischievously to its peaceful closing chord, a composer in search of simple resolution. This performance, give on the largest of scales – with every possible repeat observed – was a revelation.

The last of the ‘Razumovsky’ quartets began with arresting unanimity, a pensive introduction leading to a joyous and flexible Allegro. The musicians caught well the Viennese inflections of the second movement but not necessarily its resonance, and the third movement can be more capricious than here, a little too fast and melodically ‘squeezed’. With the finale, the players left no doubt as to their virtuosity, or their precision of ensemble, and if such a wildly-fast approach was neither soulless nor mechanistic, there is more point to this movement than such a ‘presto’ tactic allows (Beethoven’s marking is Allegro molto); nevertheless it was thrilling and concluded a fine concert.

Well, not quite, for a Minuet from one of Haydn’s Opus 74 quartets was offered as an encore; it really wasn’t needed, but was played with affection.

  • The Auryn Quartet’s Beethoven cycle at Wigmore Hall continues on 5 January at 7.30, and then on 3, 4 & 5 April

  • Wigmore Hall

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