Paizo Quartet

String Quartet in C minor, Op.18/4
String Quartet in F minor, Op.5

Paizo Quartet [Mikkel Futtrup & Kirstine Futtrup (violins),Magda Stevensson (viola) & Toke Møldrup (cello)]

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 11 December, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

The Wigmore Hall’s Coffee Concerts often introduce London audiences to young musicians of note, and this recital confirmed the Paizo Quartet to be a dynamic and impressively unanimous group – drawing real impact from two headstrong minor-key works written almost a century apart.

Admittedly Beethoven’s C minor Quartet is the least appealing of his Op.18 sequence. The driving rhetoric of its outer movements is not balanced by a comparable poise, though in neither could one accuse the Paizo of being short-winded; the musicians were always in control of expressive tension. The rhythmic repetitiveness of the second movement – a scherzo pretending to be an andante – was full of artful nuances, with the nervy vigour of the third movement – a scherzo pretending to be a minuet – given with alacrity. If not more than the sum of its parts, the work certainly came across as a cohesive and determined whole.

‘Determined’ is an apt description of Nielsen’s F minor Quartet (1890), second in a series of four that was regrettably not continued after 1906. At nearly half-an-hour, the work is as big-boned as it is unequivocal in expression, and it was to the Paizo’s credit that the players conveyed the weightiness of the first movement without losing focus in the densely-wrought textures. Its successor is shot-through with yearning intensity redolent of the slow movements in Brahms’s two Op.51 quartets – a kinship that is furthered in a disquieting intermezzo, before the finale sees the accrued tension through to a finely-sustained close. If lacking Nielsen’s hallmarks, the quartet is still an impressive statement of intent.

There was no doubting the fervour or conviction that the Paizo Quartet brought to this rare performance, as far as the UK is concerned, nor that this is an ensemble that knows how to letdown its collective hair: brief but engaging encores consisted of an anonymous “immigrant song”, and – with all four membersstanding – what sounded a ’round the table’ romp that must go down a treat at New Year. The Paizo Quartet has no doubt made plans for December 31st, so let’s have the ensemble back at the Wigmore Hall for a full-evening recital in 2006.

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