Pavel Haas Quartet & Khatia Buniatishvili at Wigmore Hall – Haydn & Shostakovich

String Quartet in D minor, Op.76/2 (Fifths)
Piano Quintet in G minor, Op.57

Pavel Haas Quartet [Veronika Jaruskova & Eva Karova (violins), Pavel Nikl (viola) & Peter Jarusek (cello)]

Khatia Buniatishvili (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 12 July, 2010
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

This, the final BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert of the current season, featured five artists benefiting from the station’s enterprising New Generation Artists scheme.

Pavel Haas Quartet. Photo: www.marcoborggreve.comThe Pavel Haas Quartet, members of the scheme from 2007 to 2009, began with one of Haydn’s late masterpieces. There was plenty to admire in the players’ interpretation of the ‘Fifths’ quartet, so called for its prominent use of the melodic interval, though tempo choices were generally on the fast side, which resulted in a somewhat brusque first movement with some of the melodic lines compromised. The three-in-a-bar Andante and the Minuet’s trio section had more charm however, with the darker hues of the piece briefly relenting to project a greater lyricism. Veronika Jaruskova proved an authoritative leader, enjoying the elaborations on the main theme in the Andante while ensuring the Minuet had a relatively bare sound throughout, its octaves ringing out without vibrato applied. Aside from some curious phrasing towards the end of the first movement this was a performance notable for its keen interplay, showing how Haydn was advancing the sound of the string quartet in his later years.

Khatia Buniatishvili joined for Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet, one of his most popular chamber works. The piece is notable for its relatively economic scoring, using the five instruments together with surprising scarcity, and these moments define the emotional impact of the whole work. Initially the balance between piano and strings took a while to iron out, with Buniatishvili somewhat backward in the picture, and the grand opening of the ‘Prelude’ felt detached from the quartet-members’ response. By the crushing unisons of the Scherzo, however, the five musicians were fully integrated and powerfully united, and there was a strongly kinetic feel to the music by this point. The ‘Intermezzo’ calmed this somewhat, though featured a particularly intense climactic point, while Buniatishvili really came into her own in the finale, contrasting bittersweet lyricism with a thundering descent in the more dance-derived music. Clearly these players were living the music, and with largely judicious use of their dynamic range were able to fashion a powerful and emotionally far-reaching performance.

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