Carducci Quartet & Nicola Eimer

Piano Concerto No.12 in A, K414 [Version for piano and string quartet]
String Quartet in F
Piano Quintet in E flat, Op.44

Carducci Quartet [Matthew Denton & Michelle Fleming (violins), Eoin Schmidt-Martin (viola) & Emma Denton (cello)]

Nicola Eimer (piano)

The twelfth annual Jacqueline du Pré charity concert: In aid of Macmillan Cancer Relief and in memory of John Scrivener (1938-2006)

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 27 March, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Jacqueline du Pré gave her first London performance at the Wigmore Hall in March 1961 and, since 1996, the annual Jacqueline du Pré charity concert has been held in March. All performers donate their services. The Carducci Quartet is a young group of musicians who have been together for about four years.

The three piano concertos that Mozart composed when he settled in Vienna from Salzburg (K413-415) after getting married were designed so that wind parts could be dispensed with for performance a quattro, more than likely aimed at the amateur aficionado for home consumption. In any event, the performance here was unsatisfactory and laid bare the criticism that a lot of Mozart all sounds the same and lacks soul. During most of the performance the players lacked subtlety, especially Nicola Eimer, who was often far too loud for this hall – it would have been a good idea to have closed the piano’s lid.Mozart offers very little in the way of virtuosity for the pianist in this concerto and so there most be invested a great deal in dynamics and texture, which were, sadly, lacking, giving rise to a one-dimensional rendition. The string-playing lacked delicacy and the performance needed to be a lot tidier.

Ravel’s String Quartet proved a rich seam that the Carducci must keep mining. In complete contrast to the Mozart, here the players found music that they can convey with great commitment and enthusiasm and also a range of emotions. Again, however, some of the playing could have been much softer and subtler. However, the first movement’s climaxes had a virtuoso and vibrant quality. The poetic, mournful third movement gave way to the lively finale and confirmed much that is positive about the Carducci’s playing: careful control of dynamics and excellent communication.

The highly melodic Piano Quintet of Schumann may not have been tightly played but all the instincts of the musicians were spot-on, with the melodic lines of the opening movement having a sparkling quality. In the second movement (familiar from Ingmar Bergman’s film “Fanny och Alexander”) the contrasting episodes of serenity and panic were served up very well although in the scherzo there could have been a greater level of tranquillity and vitality to distinguish the different moods. The finale showed all the players at their very best even though there was room for more courageous portrayal: more extended pauses would have given greater emphasis to the musical intentions being made.

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