ALTHOUGH 20 years separate the formation of these groups and one is a trio, albeit for this concert they were added to by a guest viola player, and the other is a quartet, they have quite a deal in common.
The Amatis are part of the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Young Artist Scheme which the Belcea (pictured) were part of the when it first came into being in 1999/2001, and both have lead violinists who were founder members. As much as anything it was interesting to see the different way in which these two ladies stamped their authority on the playing.
Lea Hausmann of Amatis plays her music with a smile on her face which often communicates itself to the music.That was certainly the case in Mahler’s Piano Quartet Movement in A minor which opened their programme.
Throughout this piece and even more in the complex Mozart Piano Quartet in G minor cellist Samuel Shepard, although with Lea and pianist Mengjie Han a founder of the trio, and guest viola player Elvind Ringstad constantly looked to Lea for leadership.
It was surprising therefore to find her a little reticent compared to the three men when BBC 3’s Georgia Mann, (the concert was being recorded for a later broadcast), interviewed them between the works. Especially compared to pianist whose relaxed interview technique fitted perfectly into his strong slightly flamboyant style of playing.
He held in it check, as did Lea Hausmann hold her lighter side of playing allowing cellist Samuel Shepard and Elvind Ringstad, viola to fully exploit the pathos and melancholy never far from the surface in Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E flat major.
Whereas you could visibly follow the interaction between the players of the Amatis Trio and their guest, the Belcea Quartet appeared to be quite oblivious of each other. Except that is for a series of conspiratorial glances that Krzysztof Chorzelski shot from over his viola towards his fellow founder of the trio Corina Belcea, violin. Despite this from the first notes of Mozart’s String Quartet in B flat major through Bartok’s String Quartet No 6, and finishing with Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in F minor there was no doubt that Corina Belcea was the leader of the pack. A pack that changed moods with a deceptive ease, and great skill from the evenly musically balanced Mozart work to the musical gymnastics to be found in the Bartok, and on to perhaps the underrated Mendelssohn composed only months before he died aged just 48.
No excuses for the audience not being aware of the composers of all three works intentions thanks to informative introductions from Oxford musicologist Jonathan Cross. Looking around the audience as he delivered these introductions I formed the impression that whilst most of us found them interesting and informative, they would have liked to have had the opportunity to challenge him on one or two points.