Monday, 21 March 2011

The Piatti Quartet, Northcott Theatre, Sunday 13 March

The Piatti Quartet

Charlotte Scott & Michael Trainor, violin
David Wigram, viola; Jessie Ann Richardson, 'cello

On the evening of Sunday 13 March the Piatti Quartet came to the Northcott Theatre to give the last of four concerts in the 'Classical Concert Series'.  Previously at the Northcott there have been a piano recital by Freddy Kempf, a violin and piano recital by Katie Stillman and Simon Lane and a piano, violin and 'cello recital by the 'Vienna Mozart Trio' (q.v.).  Following mathematical logic the fourth concert involved four musicians, two violinists - Charlotte Scott and Michael Trainor, in conjuction with a violist and a 'cellist - David Wigram and Jessie Ann Richardson.
The concert was very well attended and many local musicians were there to hear this new and very impressive string quartet.  Without preamble they launched into the very vigorous 'Emperor' Quartet by Josef Haydn, a breathtaking performance in four increasingly impressive movements.  Jessie Ann Richardson's 'cello continuo was firm and strong throughout, with lovely duets by the two violinists.  In the presto the instruments alternated more and the four players all showed their amazing individual skill.
The Quartettsatz by Franz Schubert started feverishly and had even more going on for each player.  As each completed a beautiful passage the next would leap in with absolute confidence, creating a beautifully coherent whole.
David Wigram introduces Smetana's First String Quartet
- and his own viola solo
After the usual luxurious interval in the Northcott mezzanine bar, where many positive comments were made, David Wigram took the floor to tell us all about the very special piece that would take up the whole of the second half.  As David explained, very succinctly, Bedřich Smetana's First String Quartet "Z mého života" ("From my life") describes the composer's life in four movements.  Childhood leads to young adulthood, marriage, Czech nationalist awakening  and finally old age and infirmity.  Smetana suffered from tinnitus in later life, a terrible experience for a composer, and that is expressed in the vivace where high violin harmonics give us some idea of his suffering.
David not only introduced and explained this work beautifully, but also had a beautiful viola solo to open the proceedings.  From then on everything was beautiful.  The 'cello sound was rich and clear with the pizzicato section representing Bedřich's beloved wife Kateřina was delightful.  The exchange between the instruments in the polka was worked perfectly with sharp transitions executed with faultless dynamics.  Everything was excellent and the whole 'story', lasting about an hour, was pure pleasure from start to finish.
Thank you

In response to the audience applause the quartet treated us to a little more Haydn, the finale to Opus 33 No 4, a fitting end to a wonderful concert.  Then, as Michael warmed up the car for their journey home, the remaining players changed into more casual clothes and posed for a farewell snapshot.

and bon voyage

Since then the quartet have completed a tour of Scotland  - funded by the Tunnell Trust for Young Musicians as an award for excellence, just one of the many awards they have won, and shall no doubt continue to win in the future.

More classical concerts at the Northcott Theatre?  Watch out for news of the next 'Classical Concert Series' - which will also appear on this website.  In the meantime we have a quadruple bill of opera this week.  Four separate operas performed over five days by the English Touring Opera.  (Details in this week's Concert Run-Down.)  As soon as the dust settles after that, Exeter University's Director of Music, Marion Wood will mount the rostrum next Monday evening to conduct the Exeter University Choral Society in a selection of 'carmina' ('songs') from Carl Orff's 1936 'Carmina Burana' - poems by mediaeval students in exciting modern arrangements.  The full 'Carmina Burana' will follow in June this year.  (Details of Monday's concert are also in the run-down below.)

Exeter's Northcott Theatre is not only a great venue for drama, but also for great music.

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