The Dante Quartet Excels in Matthew Taylor’s Music

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Haydn, Taylor Beethoven.  Dante Quartet [Krysia Osostowicz (violin), Oscar Perks (violin), Yuko Inoue (viola), Richard Jenkinson (cello).] Hall One, Kings Place, London. 11.1.2015 (LB)

Haydn – String Quartet in C, Op.33, No.3 ‘The Bird’
Matthew Taylor – String Quartet No.5, Op.35
Beethoven – String Quartet No.12 in E-flat Op.127

String Quartets have historically provided the backbone of the London Chamber Music Society concerts, and this evening it was the turn of the Dante Quartet, who have been regular visitors, to uphold the tradition of the string quartet, commonly considered to be the purest and most noble form of music.

The Dante String Quartet, now in its 20th year, has undergone a number of personnel changes; its founder, Krysia Osostowicz is the sole original member.

Haydn’s ‘The Bird’ quartet, so nick-named for its evocative use of grace notes and trills, opened the concert. The Dante Quartet’s earnest, almost literal approach did not serve Haydn’s music particularly well and failed to capture much of the essence of the man credited with being the father of not only the symphony, but also the string quartet. A chirpy presto final movement restored some effervescence nonetheless, even if ensemble and accuracy were at times sacrificed in pursuit of the spirit of the music.

Successful performances of Beethoven’s Op.127 String Quartet are few and far between due to the work’s onerous technical and intellectual demands. Despite a superlative and dogged effort the Dante Quartet were unable to contribute to the positive side of that equation.

The undoubted triumph of the evening, however, was Matthew Taylor’s Fifth String Quartet; not only was it deftly programmed alongside two familiar works by great exponents of the string quartet medium, it is also a compelling piece of music in its own right and was given a performance of great commitment and communicative power.

Matthew Taylor is no stranger to the string quartet, having already composed seven of them, but in this quartet he explores the possibilities inherent in a continuous work, though still retaining distinctive movements, much in the way that Liszt sought to transform the structure of the piano concerto in his first concerto in E-flat.

The gripping Allegro furioso that fires the quartet into action is a real tour de force, and by the time the second movement Fuga: Intensivo began, the audience had been transformed into willing and eager participants in a vivid musical tale. The Lullaby: Adagio final movement finished with a whisper, having already successful worked its magic.

The composer, who was present for the performance, had every reason to be proud of his achievement and appreciative of the excellent performance his quartet had been given.

At least one member of the audience confided to me that hearing this quartet had motivated them to want to go away to explore more of Matthew Taylor’s music; such enthusiasm is a lamentably rare phenomenon in contemporary music, and this may well be a signpost to the future.


Leon Bosch

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