String Quartet in E flat, D87
Clarinet Quintet in A, K581
Tokyo String Quartet [Martin Beaver & Kikuei Ikeda (violins), Kazuhide Isomura (viola) & Clive Greensmith (cello)]
Sabine Meyer (clarinet)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 13 December, 2010
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The Tokyo String Quartet began this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert with a welcome look at one of Schubert’s early outings in the form. Written when the composer was sixteen, the E flat String Quartet is notable for its profusion of melodies, many of them exuding an easy charm. These qualities were the basis of the performance, the brief scherzo especially adding a nice humorous touch with a swift flick at the start of each phrase reminiscent of Haydn’s ‘Bird’ Quartet (from Opus 33). The tremolos with which the finale began suggested Schubert was thinking on a larger instrumental scale, the near-orchestral scope given some nice sleights of drollness by the players, ensuring a sense of intimacy remained. The slow movement was ideally paced and had a sense of close music-making, each part nicely detailed.
There followed a wonderful performance of a work that never loses its charm, Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet. Though it places considerable demands on the lower register of its lead instrument, Sabine Meyer was fully in control of these as she led a thoroughly musical interpretation. Particularly winsome was the Minuet, its recurring subject skilfully varied in colour or phrasing on each repetition, the second Trio delighting with its balletic steps. The Tokyo Quartet was extremely responsive to Meyer’s playing, most notably in the Theme & Variations finale, during which the inflections of Kazuhide Isomura’s viola were beautifully turned. Meyer came into her own, however, in the sublime Larghetto, finding plenty of space with wonderful breath control and turn of phrase, her pianissimo playing beyond reproach.