Auryn Quartet at Wigmore Hall: Beethoven Cycle – 3

String Quartet in E flat, Op.74 (Harp)
String Quartet in G, Op.18/2
String Quartet in C sharp minor, Op.131

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

Reviewed by: Andrew Maisel

Reviewed: 5 January, 2010
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Auryn Quartet. Photograph: Manfred EsserThe third instalment of the Auryn Quartet’s complete cycle of Beethoven string quartets at Wigmore Hall began with the ‘Harp’ Quartet and summed up everything about this group of musicians who have been together for almost thirty years. They play with great refinement and a real sense of ensemble, producing a sound that is sweet and delicately poised. It worked beautifully to begin with; the Auryn’s legato phrasing perfectly expressing the more relaxed nature of the opening Allegro. The heartbreaking Adagio contained some beautifully expressive playing from Matthias Lingenfelder, but curiously failed to stir the soul. The musicians avoided the pitfall of playing the opening notes of the third movement as triplets but there was a lack of abandon here and in the closing Allegretto.

Opus 18/Number 2, for all the fine playing, was a rather joyless affair. The first movement allegro with its Haydnesque “comedy of manners” spirit was somewhat humourless and the impish scherzo failed to sparkle. The Adagio cantabile was immaculately phrased but the occasional outbursts, which puncture the landscape of serenity and give the movement an unexpected edge, lacked bite.

Opus 131 was a different matter. The Auryn Quartet rose magnificently to the challenge of a revolutionary work in which it is necessary to portray Beethoven’s enormous variety of moods, forms and textures as well as making sense of them as a seamless seven-movement structure. The opening fugue had an almost quasi-religious feel about it, the faster movements a sense of turbulence missing from earlier, while the central Andante conjured up a meditative quality that was hypnotic. Perhaps the last ounce of “schizophrenic dissociation”, as it has been described, was absent, but this was a truly fine performance.

A sublimely phrased and deeply-felt performance of the slow movement of Haydn’s Opus 74/Number 3 followed as an unexpected encore.

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

  • Wigmore Hall

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