Maxwell String Quartet, Concerts in the West

BASED on a competition in Japan this month, the concerts given by the young Maxwell String Quartet were both a challenge and a delight.

Ravel’s Quartet of 1903 is a work admired for its lyricism and beauty – it pleased Ravel’s contemporary Debussy, and audiences thereafter. Careful preparation ensured that the gliding phrases and the diversity of textures came across as a series of beautiful moments.

Bartok’s six string quartets may have occupied a less exalted position over recent years than they did following his death in 1945, but such is the detail of their organisation and the incorporation of Hungarian folk influence that their historic impact keeps them in the forefront of 20th century chamber music achievements. Even when we are not sure what is being expressed, we are acutely aware that the short motives are constantly renewed and harmonies are close to being without a key centre. It was clear that the players enjoyed the challenges that Bartok invented.

Since Benjamin Britten’s second string quartet was performed on 21 November 1945, the 250th anniversary of Henry Purcell’s death, it was appropriate that Britten’s admiration for the older composer was revealed, most notably in the Chacony, 21 variations on a nine-bar unit. there are also significant solo passages, and each was expressively played.

Concerts in the West’s next series, from 1st to 3rd June, features patron Alasdair Beatson playing piano music by Beethoven, Debussy, Schumann and Satie.

Contributed by Anthony Pither

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