Sunday at the Wigmore – 10 November

Photo: Florestan Trio

10 Variations in G, Op.121a (Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu)
Piano Trio in E flat, D929

String Quartet in F, Op.59/1 (Razumovsky)
String Quartet in C, Op.64/1
String Quartet in F, Op.41/2

Florestan Trio
[Susan Tomes (piano), Anthony Marwood (violin) & Richard Lester (cello)]

Quatuor Mosaïques
[Eric Hoebarth & Andrea Bischof (violins), Anita Mitterer (viola) & Christophe Coin (cello)]

Reviewed by: Peter Grahame Woolf

Reviewed: 10 November, 2002
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

The Wigmore Hall, which is enjoying a brilliant season, was packed to standing for both the Florestan Trio’s Sunday morning “Coffee Concert” and again at teatime for the Quatuor Mosaïques.

The Florestan is one of the most accomplished appearing before the public and their recording experience showed too in the immaculate performances of their two chosen works.The Beethoven is one of those joke works like Dohnányi’s Variations on a Nursery Theme, with a huge, portentous slow introduction that evaporates with the disclosure of a jaunty little theme. I felt that this latter was presented too brusquely and somehow lessened the humour. Susan Tomes confessed that the massive Schubert trio – he seemed unable to let any idea go – was a tough assignment for a morning concert, but the Wigmore audience helped.Her contribution proved the most characterful – ever-alert, watching and listening to her colleagues to keep in perfect rapport. There was however little of the playful give and take to make this performance unique in any way; one felt that their CD of it would probably sound just the same. We were all exhausted by the end and there was properly no encore before we retired for the coffee or sherry that is included.

Quatuor Mosaïques play with gut strings and restrained vibrato, sounding quieter than most string quartets heard at this venue; this effect probably increased by the full house.The opening Haydn carries the in-built advantage that with so many to choose from, one did not know this one (which is odd in having no slow movement) all that well. The Schumann quartet went pleasantly enough, but is far less interesting than his equally infrequently played piano trios, one of which made a powerful effect played by the Florestans at Cheltenham, and another at Lucerne by the Trio Jean Paul which has made Schumann their speciality and have produced a superlative recording of all three.

The Beethoven was underpowered and did not give the feeling of stretching the medium which is part and parcel of these central works in the quartet repertoire and Beethoven’s oeuvre, composed three years after the ’Eroica’, only six years after his fledgling Op.18 quartets and sixteen after Haydn’s Op.64. Even more so than with the Florestans, one felt that one was hearing something too well honed and careful, a downside of the prominence of studio recording in the classical music business. Beethoven’s ’Razumovsky’ quartets (all Op.59) have to be exciting or else they fail.

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