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Asasello Quartet & Jill Crossland

String Quartet in D, Op.76/5
12 Microludes – Hommage à Mihály András, Op.13
Piano Quintet in F minor, Op.34

Asasello Quartet
Rostislav Kojevnikov & Barbara Kuster (violins), Justyna Sliwa (viola) & Andreas Mueller (cello) Jill Crossland (piano)

Wigmore Hall, London, November 16, 2007

This concert marked the Asasello Quartet’s Wigmore Hall debut, and it was a shame that not more of an audience turned out for it. One of the most notable features about the Asasello’s attitude to music making and programming is their deliberate employment of contrast – be it in terms of period of composition, style, duration of work to give but three aspects in evidence here.

Their playing of the Haydn quartet was lithe and alert, forward looking rather than stuck in the musty past of tradition. That is not to suggest they did not reference aspects which could be thought of as traditional, particularly in the lingering largo movement, which they played with rapt inwardly singing tone and warmth. The presto finale, however, brought things hurtling towards the present day in terms of approach once more with its almost driven tempo.

Michael Jarrell’s piece purports to be concerned with the synthesis of time past, present and future by representing the three facets simultaneously. If the work’s no holes barred jarring start seemed a little dated (the device of beginning this way has been employed too often in the last half century) no doubt this was unintended by the composer. The work's duration was at once long – too long in some passages – yet in other senses mercifully short, since it proved almost instantly forgettable. Technicality had the upper hand over lasting musicality, and it was only towards the end when certain musical ideas were revisited and imposed upon others that Jarrell’s timely ambitions began to make some sense. The Asasellos tackled it all with unwavering commitment.

Given the context, Kurtág’s Microludes were not only mercifully brief but also generously witty. No sooner had each wispful musical thought been born then it died, succeeded by another in the sequence. The Asasello quartet played them from memory and obviously enjoyed doing so, revelling in the momentary beauty of the music.

Joined by British pianist Jill Crossland, the programme ended with perhaps the piano quintet to end all piano quintets in terms of demand and duration. Brahms asks much from his players throughout the nigh on forty minute duration of the piece – the pianist plays almost constantly and the quartet has much to do in the way of coordination amongst themselves and with the pianist. The results here were full bodied and suitably Brahmsian in warmth of tone and sensible tempi chosen throughout to bring out affection for the music. The spontaneous generosity that all the musicians showed in their playing said much not only for their individual accomplishments but also for their rapport together.

May we hear more of the Asasello Quartet soon please!

Evan Dickerson

See Jill Crossland playing on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/JillCrosslandPiano