String Quintet in C, G310
Piano Quartet No.3 in C minor, Op.60
Trio élégiaque No.1 in G minor, Op.posth
Piano Quintet in A, Op.81
Chilingirian Quartet [Levon Chilingirian & Charles Sewart (violins), Susie Meszaros (viola) & Philip De Groote (cello)]
Yuri Zhislin (violin)
Levon Chilingirian (violin)
Alexander Zemtsov (viola)
Alexander Chaushian (cello)
David Geringas (cello)
Martino Tirimo (piano)
Ashley Wass (piano)
Bengt Forsberg (piano)
Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey
Reviewed: 7 January, 2008
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
Lasting a little short of three hours, this monster concert – with a correspondingly extended cast list – celebrated the 10th-anniversary of the Pharos Trust, a Cyprus-based charitable organisation which undertakes a range of arts-related educational activities as well as sponsoring the International Pharoa Chamber Music Festival at Kouklia, the sanctuary of Aphrodite and one of the Greco-Roman world’s most important pilgrimage sites. The Festival’s Directors are Levon Chilingirian and the outstanding cellist Alexander Chaushian.
Given the scale of the programme and the number of different performers involved, it was hardly surprising that the performances varied widely in quality. Least satisfactory by some margin was the opening Boccherini Quintet, not the better-known one advertised in the programme, the five-movement ‘La musica notturna delle strade di Madrid’, but another rather nondescript Quintet in C – a four-movement work and apparently one of approximately thirty which Boccherini wrote in this key. Cellist David Geringas joined the Chilingirian members. The work was ‘attacked’ with more enthusiasm than polish and suffered from some distinctly approximate intonation, especially from Levon Chilingirian. Speeds were consistently marginally too fast to allow for finesse, and – apart from one fine cello solo from Geringas in the slow movement – with very little in the way of dynamics, the overall effect was unremittingly beefy and unvaried.
Far better was Brahms’s final piano quartet with Yuri Zhislin, Alexander Zemtsov and Alexander Chaushian, the whole performance firmly anchored by the veteran pianist Martino Tirimo who instinctively found the right tone of voice for every aspect of Brahms’s demanding piano part, warm, well-rooted yet with a fine forward impulse, very much a first among equals. Chaushian too was outstanding, especially at the opening of the slow movement and also in the little duet with the viola, which was most sensitively handled. Later on, especially in the scherzo, there was some roughness of execution – always a danger when four distinct personalities come together on an ad hoc basis – but what was never in doubt was the essential rightness of the overall concept.
Rachmaninov’s early Trio élégiaque in G minor – not the better-known Opus 9 begun on the evening of Tchaikovsky’s death and dedicated “to the memory of a great artist” – but the single movement 15-minute work written a year earlier when the composer was just 18 and only published four years after his death. It is an astonishingly precocious work. This performance was something a mixed success – Zhislin and Chaushian penetrated its vein of yearning Slavic melancholy with effortless ease, producing a rich singing tone throughout. By contrast, in the important piano part Ashley Wass was seriously miscast. Although Wass visibly threw himself into his task, all-too-often his playing sounded one-dimensional and lightweight as though the work’s late-Romantic angst were being experienced at one remove rather than first hand, so much sound and fury signifying nothing.
Lastly in this ongoing game of musical chairs came Dvořák’s evergreen Piano Quintet, the more famous of his two works for the medium. Here the pianist was the estimable Bengt Forsberg, crisp and light-fingered but somewhat lacking in weight in the outer movements, whilst Levon Chilingirian led, Zhislin was second violin and David Geringas returned. Although never less than enjoyable, the truly excellent once more sat cheek by jowl with some scrappy playing, especially in the finale where intonation occasionally left a good deal to the imagination. On the other hand, the extended ‘Dumka’ second movement was quite hypnotically beautiful – one wished it would never end – and the ‘Furiant’, although fractionally too fast for comfort, was full of an engaging personality.