Sydenham International Music Festival – Endellion String Quartet

String Quartet in E minor, Op.59/2 (Razumovsky)
Divertimento in B flat, K287 – Adagio
String Quartet in G minor

Endellion String Quartet [Andrew Watkinson & Ralph de Souza (violins), Garfield Jackson (viola) & David Waterman (cello)]

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 3 June, 2007
Venue: St Bartholemew's Church, Sydenham, South-East London

The Endellion String QuartetAnother full house in St Bartholomew’s gave witness to the wonderful suitability of the Westwood Hill church for chamber music, while the Endellion Quartet, returning for its fifth Sydenham festival appearance, completed a three-year cycle of Beethoven’s ‘Razumovsky’ quartets.

The second in the set has one of the most definitive dramatic opening gestures in all Beethoven, and in this performance the two huge chords were given with plenty of gusto. From there on the interpretation was carefully focused yet fresh, from the quiet, song-like second theme to the sensitive use of silence with which the big chords were often followed.

The scherzo’s cross-rhythms had an enjoyable swing and the finale scampered forward at quite a pace, the dialogue between the two violins in particular most impressive. Ralph de Souza’s second violin, strong in support here, was a touch wiry in the otherwise warm-hearted slow movement, the serenity of the major key brought out well, along with a passionate coda.

Another slow movement followed the interval, that taken from Mozart’s six-movement Divertimento. The substantial Adagio forms the centre of the ‘violin concerto’ incorporated within this large structure, and Andrew Watkinson’s solo part was immaculate in its high-register control. The performance was slightly vibrato-rich, but took time to enjoy the brief cadenza passage, giving way to a gentle finish.

The Endellion moved straight into a fluid performance of Debussy’s string quartet. A vigorous first movement succeeded also in revealing Debussy’s textural invention, though the definition of the pizzicato-based scherzo suffered a little in the acoustic. These were nonetheless well delivered, as was the slow movement, beginning expansively but successfully building in speed and intensity to an impassioned climax. The transition to the finale was nicely done, thanks to Garfield Jackson and David Waterman, though here and elsewhere more of Debussy’s wit could have been explored.

A fine performance nevertheless, with a light-footed scherzo from Beethoven’s Opus 130 given as an encore.

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