String Quintet in G minor, K516
Quartet for Bassoon and Strings, Op.73/1
String Sextet in B flat, Op.18
Henning Kraggerud (violin & viola)
Gordan Nikolitch (violin & viola)
David Juritz (violin)
Andriy Viytovtych (viola)
Oleg Kogan (cello)
Alexander Chaushian (cello)
Julie Price (bassoon)
Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey
Reviewed: 9 January, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The brainchild of Ukrainian-born cellist Oleg Kogan, the Razumovsky Ensemble – named after Beethoven’s Ukrainian-born patron – is best described as a loose collective of top-flight musicians. All are either established soloists or section leaders of major orchestras and they come together on an ad hoc basis for the joy of making chamber music. Despite their individual accomplishments, this is very much a group of equals and as if to demonstrate their democratic instincts the leader’s chair on this occasion was shared between Gordan Nikolitch (Mozart), David Juritz (Devienne) and Henning Kraggerud (Brahms) with Kraggerud and Nikolitch switching to the viola for the Mozart and Brahms respectively.
Mozart’s G minor Quintet drew some ravishing sounds from all concerned, especially in the sublimely inward Adagio, which sang through the silences. Perhaps the opening Allegro and particularly the succeeding Minuet would have benefited from slightly more relaxed tempos but any slight roughness here were more than offset by the overall commitment of the playing and an especially eloquent cello from Oleg Kogan. Overtly emotional playing has its place when, in Mozart, the key is G minor and this was richly satisfying.
François Devienne is a relative unknown, save to wind players. A more-or-less contemporary of Mozart, he composed more than 300 instrumental works plus 12 operas and not surprisingly, if the programme note is to be believed, he died “probably of overwork” in a sanatorium near Paris in 1803. For his Bassoon Quartet, the personable Julie Price, currently a member of the BBC Symphony and the English Chamber Orchestra, joined Viytovtych and Kogan. This was music very much in the mould of Boccherini: affable, fluent and with a particularly sprightly finale, and it received a deliciously pointed performance of real character.
Best of all was the impassioned Brahms Sextet, very much a youthful reading, fluid and forward-moving, where Kraggerud and Nikolitch rejoined the group plus – for the first time – the excellent Armenian cellist Alexander Chaushian. This was playing of an almost orchestral opulence, particularly in the Andante moderato with all six players commanding a weight of tone one rarely encounters in chamber music and each pair of instruments notably well-matched, especially the all-important cellos who carry so much of the argument. In the midst of all this richness the group also varied the tension and highlighted those moments of inwardness such as the brief first movement coda, a moment to make one catch one’s breath. The close of the scherzo, taken at an absolutely headlong tempo, elicited an audible collective response from the audience whilst the discursive finale was appropriately gemütlich.