String Quartet in C, K465
String Quintet in G minor, K516
Elias String Quartet [Sara Bitlloch & Donald Grant (violins), Martin Saving (viola) & Marie Bitlloch (cello)]
Malin Broman (viola)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 10 January, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
As part of the tenth day of twelve in BBC Radio 3’s exploration of “The Genius of Mozart” – his complete works being broadcast – this sold-out BBC Lunchtime Concert paired two of his very finest chamber works.
The opening pages of the ‘Dissonance’ Quartet, the sixth and final of the set that Mozart dedicated to Haydn, are like nothing else in the composer’s output. In the right hands they can cast a spell on even the most restless audience, such as happened here, for several attendees were under the unfortunate affliction of colds. The Elias Quartet silenced these afflictions, however, taking the music’s measure with quiet dynamics and vibrato at a premium as the unearthly harmonies evolved. The ensuing Allegro, a total contrast in the purest C major, had nice touches of humour and an easy charm, though reached a full climax as the counterpoint became more heavily projected. The Elias Quartet’s enjoyment of the music was clear, the players smiling a lot at each other, and their body language suggested total involvement. The Minuet was very persuasive, led by the sweet tone of Sara Bitlloch, with the finale taking on a similarly positive disposition.
Occasionally Bitlloch was guilty of over-projecting portamento, a tendency that became more harmful in the first movement of the masterly G minor Quintet. Here the second theme has an upward shift of just over an octave, and what should have been a pronounced utterance was overdone at times. There were however many fine things in this interpretation, particularly in the slow movement, where Malin Broman’s probing contribution lent a silvery tone to the second-viola part and, in the Minuet, the disorientating effect of the off-beat interjections was extremely well delivered. The finale, too, was just right, capping the performance with the solemn intensity of the introduction, which soon gave way, effectively drawing the curtains back, to reveal the sunny disposition of the rondo. From here on, Bitlloch’s violin led with a likeable tone, the players communicating strongly for rhythmic ensemble and to ensure that each return to the main theme was pure delight.