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Beethoven, Bridge & Mendelssohn Quartets

Beethoven: Quartet in D Op.18/3
Bridge: Quartet No.2 in G minor
Mendelssohn: Quartet in E flat Op. 44/3

Maggini Quartet
- Suzanne Stanzeleit violin
- David Angel violin
- Martin Outram viola
- Michal Kaznowski ‘cello

Conway Hall, London 6 February 2011

Since the London Chamber Music Society decamped to Kings Place, Conway Hall Sunday Concerts (Artistic Director Simon Callaghan*) - also on Sundays at 6.30 - have gradually picked up. Last night we, with an enthusiastic audience of some 150, opted for an interesting quartet recital there instead of the Rite of Spring on pianos at Kings Place.

Suzanne Stanzeleit, the Maggini's new leader, set a gentle style for Beethoven's Op 18/3, without any of the pointed exaggeration one is apt to hear from younger quartets vying for places at the head of the pack. It was followed by an enthralling account of Frank Bridge's No 2, which won a Cobbett Prize (1915). Rich in harmony and imaginative in its deployment of the instruments, it was preceded by quite a long introduction from violist Mark Outram (Bridge was a successful violist, much in demand), given without notes, setting us up well for an unfamiliar work which had caused problems for its first audiences.

Intervals at Conway Hall are convivial; most of us there go back many years (more than half a century in my case) and conversation flourishes. We are ageing gracefully together; it isn't the sort of place to appeal the the new young, and SPES (South Place Ethical Society) doesn't seem to be making desperate efforts to attract them, as does ENO to its innovative opera productions...

The Mendelssohn Eb quartet is full of fire and energy and deserves an occasional outing but, despite the Magginis giving it their all, it disappointed and seemed to be not on the level of his first quartets or the last one. Good ideas were introduced in each movement, but then treated formulaically, outstaying their welcomes; best was the Scherzo, as so often with Mendelssohn. A Haydn minuet sent us all home in a less hectic, happier frame of mind after what was, all in all, an outstandingly satisfying evening at what remains one of the very best London venues for listening to chamber music.

Peter Grahame Woolf

* The Callaghan Piano Trio has an interesting programme of Fauré, Mendelssohn & Chopin on 27 February.