The Maggini String Quartet gave a solid performance of a diverse and challenging programme at the Holywell Music Room, as part of the Oxford Chamber Music Society’s 2008 concert series.
The first piece, Haydn’s String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 20 No. 5, was briefly was described by the quartet’s cellist Michal Kaznowski as a ‘contrast of light and dark’. The performers enhanced the frequent trade-off of major and minor keys with rich dynamic contrasts throughout all four movements. Balance amongst the players was perhaps a little uneven at times, with the lower strings sometimes obscuring first violinist Lorraine McAslan’s mellow sound.
The highlight of the concert was John Ireland’s Sextet for Clarinet, Horn and String Quartet, for which the Maggini quartet were joined by clarinettist Robert Plane and hornist David Pyatt. The influence of Brahms’s clarinet quintet and horn trio shows throughout Ireland’s opus, with the rich and sonorous blending of string, wind and brass making the listener yearn for more chamber music with such instrumentation. The quartet will be recording this work for Naxos later this year, hopefully raising awareness of this composer’s fascinating early work.
The final piece on the program was Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 4 in E Minor, op. 44, no. 2, cited in the program as being ‘one of our literature’s greatest quartets’. Violist Martin Outram offered a strong and rich opening melody. The fiery fourth movement demonstrated the quartet’s outstanding technical skill, especially in virtuosic fast passages at the exhilarating climax. The quartet’s encore, William Alwyn’s ‘Novelette’, brought an enjoyable afternoon to a close.
The Oxford Chamber Music Society presents its next concert on 2 March with the Duke Quartet performing works by Steve Reich, Bartók and Ravel. Anyone under 23 years old can obtain a free ticket on the day through the Cavatina Chamber Music Trust upon presentation of ID.
by Aaron Mertz