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Beethoven; Prokofiev; Shostakovich; Sculthorpe

Prokofiev: String Quartet No 1

Shostakovich: String Quartet No 1

Beethoven: String Quartet in A minor Opus 132


Goldner String Quartet

Dene Olding, Dimiti Hall – violins; Irina Morozova – viola; Julian Smiles - cello

Wigmore Hall 24 Feb 2007

A fine recital from this young Australian group, starting with a Prokofiev performance of absolute “rightness,” both in balance and intonation. The Goldners played with relatively slow tempi, resulting in a wonderfully arresting opening perfectly meshing the melody and the syncopated chords underneath set the mood and scene just right. The more relaxed passages nicely countered the opening theme's jagged rhythms. The scherzo had all the point and bitter-sweetness so characteristic of much of Prokofiev's music and was played with demonic fervour. In the final gentle andante. The Goldners well contrasted and conveyed this bleak piece of typically Russian atmospheric writing.


Superficially serene and innocent, Shostakovich's charming and lyrical first quartet betrays nothing of the composer's human travails with Stalin's regime. Or not? As the underlying depth of the Goldners' playing suggested, perhaps it is time we began listening Shostakovich in the same way as we nowadays listen to Schubert who asked: “ Is there any happy music?”

After the interval, the Beethoven received a performance of sublime homogeneity, faithful in particular to the tempo markings, but also to its soaring, searing emotions. My benchmarks for this work are the Aeolians live (many years ago!) and the Quartetto Italiano on record, but this performance was every bit as convincing, never rushed or over-projected, always exactly in what I imagine is the spirit of the composer. As in the first half, the Goldners never put display or show above depth. Beethoven, who attained a true other world in these works, would surely have been pleased.

Though the Quartet conceded that and encore after the Beethoven was almost sacrilegious, they gave a movement from the modernist eighth quartet of the performers' compatriot Peter Sculthorpe to conclude an excellent evening.  

Dennis Day