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Two String Quartets

Beethoven, Gorton & Schoenberg
Kreutzer Quartet at Conway Hall 19 January 2007

Marking the completion of a David Gorton recording project, the recently reconstituted Kreutzer Quartet showcased his chamber music before a very small audience at Conway Hall.

Gorton's concerns have been with malleability of musical time, extended techniques and tuning systems, with a penchant for virtuosity and extreme gestures. Melting Forms for piano trio (with Roderick Chadwick) explored individual and collective routes in solos and duos and was interesting for its changing perspectives. His completely inscrutable Trajectories was given from the four corners of the auditorium by a "de-tuned" quartet - a subtlety which escaped my ears and those of several listeners with whom I checked. It comprised lengthy patches of slowly changing tones, punctuated by one welcome minute of loud agitation before returning to the original mode.*

David Gorton Portrait CD

* Melting Forms is made up of a number of solos and duos, some of which occur simultaneously. It allows the performers a certain malleability in the expressive interpretation of the musical material. While the overall transformation from frenzy to calm remains the same, the manner in which this is articulated and presented may vary from performance to performance, with the players given a variety of choice in the way their material can be played. Each player may thus choose their own individual route through the piece, as well as determining their own relationships with one another. Melting Forms was first performed by the Lawson Trio at Jacksons Lane Theatre, Highgate, on the 26th February 2006.

String Quartet: Trajectories was composed initially for the large gallery space at Tate St Ives, as a response to the extraordinary space of that particular gallery, but also designed to have the versatility to be performed in different spaces and settings. The quartet must position themselves facing one another, but may choose to sit close to one another with the audience surrounding them, or sit far apart from one another with the audience in between them. The audience may be seated, or may be free to move about the performance space (i.e. if the performance space is an art gallery). Much of the pacing of the piece is determined by the performers in response to the particular performance space, with the re-tuning of the instruments (each instrument has one of its strings tuned one third of a tone sharp, and one of its strings tuned one third of a tone flat) creating a rainbow of beats and difference tones that is unique to each performance. It received its first performance by the Kreutzer Quartet at Tate St Ives on the 16th September 2006.

David Gorton

Picture: David Gorton with the Kreutzer Quartet at Tate St Ives


Beethoven, Haydn & Janacek
The Brodsky Quartet at Blackheath Halls 20 January 2007

For really modern sounding music we had a forthright account of Beethoven's Grosse Fugue, and for light relief Schoenberg's Die Einsame Brigade, a 1916 spoof with animal noises vocalised by the players. A stimulating evening from ever-exploring musicians.

The Brodskys played safe at Blackheath, and were rewarded with a near full house and an atmosphere of contentment in the large Concert Hall.

Haydn's two movement Op 103 was charming and sounded well, but the intimacies of late Beethoven (Op 131) are not quite right for the venue. Janacek's No 2 came across as beautiful but bland, its novelty nowadays diminished by over-frequent exposure. Not a patch on the impact of the two Janacek quartets from the Elysian Quartet in the small recital room upstairs; the Brodskys needed to project more forcefully and would have been helped by a reflecting screen (such as that used for chamber concerts at QEH) in front of the heavy stage curtaining.

Peter Grahame Woolf


There will be further opportunities to hear the Brodskys current repertoire, probably to better advantage, when they are In Residence at LSO St Luke's February/March for a series of BBC lunchtime concerts.