ELYSIAN QUARTET Blackheath Halls 11 February 2003
String Quartet in G major, K.156
This eager, young quartet of ex-Trinity College of Music students has rapidly gone to strength since its formation in 1999 and is now enjoying a busy professional life, playing in such far flung corners of the world as Buenos Airies and Taiwan, as well as more locally at the Spitalfield Festival and the Houses of Paliament.
The ELYSIAN QUARTET has built up an enviable following (their last Blackheath concert was sold out & I was turned away at the doors!) and this week's concert showed why. The quartet plays with unanimity, breathing and phrasing as one, good tone and intonation, each player seizing solo moments to come forward. The two Janacek quartets were given at white hot intensity, the players relishing equally the sensuous beauty and rasping 'ugly' sounds, which the composer introduced for dramatic effect - as did the Elysians' friend Dai Fujikura in his short study.
The concert was introduced informally by members of the quartet, who encouraged us to bring up drinks from the bar after the interval. Emmy Smith explained programme changes. They had decided that including Lutoslawski's String Quartet would have been too much of a good thing for everyone - instead, Mozart's early G major quartet (at sixteen a hardened professional composer) was a welcome novelty and ideal opener. Vuk Krakovic's Almost Ten Minutes, as billed, was replaced by Midnight All Day! That was a brief study in advanced string techniques by Dai Fujikura, a prolific London-based young Japanese composer who had also studied at Trinity and is becoming increasingly well known in London's new music circles. http://www.bmic.co.uk/newvoices/fujikura.htm.
Jennymay Logan told us that Kamila Stösslová, with whom Janacek became infatuated in later life and who inspired his Intimate Letters string quartet, was mainly after the money (q.v. Intimate Letters: Leo Janácek to Kamila Stösslová, edited and translated by John Tyrrell; Faber and Faber), and cellist Laura Moody, a born raconteur, told us the gory details of Tolstoy's 'The Kreutzer Sonata'. All three talked in an easy, natural conversational way, which enhanced rapport with the contented, full house. Altogether a happy evening and I hope the quartet will pursue a life of music-making, possibly without feeling the need to chase the chimera of perfectionism fostered by CDs and competitions?
Peter Grahame Woolf
CD recommendations: Janacek String Quartets 1& 2 - Wihan Quartet; Skampa Quartet Supraphon SU3486-2 131
© Peter Grahame Woolf