Ysaÿe String Quartet & Shuli Waterman

Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K546
Langsamer Satz
String Quintet in C, K515

Ysaÿe Quartet [Guillaume Sutre & Luc-Marie Aguera (violins), Miguel da Silva (viola) & Yovan Markovitch (cello)]

Shuli Waterman (viola)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 11 September, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

In times where baggage restrictions are cramping the itineraries of international musicians it was heartening to hear of Shuli Waterman’s efforts to get to the Wigmore Hall. Her lengthy journey from Israel, via Paris, united her with the Ysaÿe Quartet in order to give the opening recital of BBC Radio 3’s Monday lunchtime chamber season.

Waterman is an occasional second violist with the Ysaÿe Quartet, and her integration was seamless in an affectionate performance of Mozart’s first mature string quintet. The heart of this performance lay in the searching Andante, placed second rather than third as listed in the programme. Here the five players captured Mozart’s harmonic daring but also conveyed a tender stillness, with Miguel da Silva’s viola noticeably projected up a notch in his duets with Guillaume Sutre.

Throughout, the group was evidently enjoying the music, and the Minuet’s visual pairings of instruments were thrown off with relish. Sutre’s violin really sang out in the finale’s lyrical theme, its springy accompaniment delivered by the attentive cellist Yovan Markovitch. Sutre’s only problem was in the second theme of the opening movement, where his choice to slur sixteen notes to a bow made for rather snatched phrasing.

Complementing the quintet’s sunny disposition was the altogether darker drama of the Adagio and Fugue, the Ysaÿe rejecting a dotted approach to the Adagio but not at the expense of a sense of occasion. The jagged main theme was contrasted well with soft pianissimo undulations, setting the scene for an incisive Fugue that retained its clarity as it filled out in texture.

Sandwiched between the two sides of Mozart was Webern’s early slow movement for string quartet. The influence of Schoenberg on the 22-year-old Webern was clear throughout its nine minutes, with strong post-Brahmsian harmonies and full textures. Here the musicians of the Ysaÿe Quartet were noticeably more indulgent with slides and expressive nuances, and once or twice this detracted from the climactic moments, but the radiant coda was wonderfully played, Markovitch’s final pizzicato chord barely audible in the hush of the hall.

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