Review: Ripon International Festival, Allegvri Quarter, Ripon Cathedral

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In the intimate atmosphere of Ripon Cathedral Choir, we were privileged to listen to the Allegri Quartet playing string quartets from the 18th and 19th. Century. However, before the music commenced we got to enjoy delicious canapés and a glass of wine, courtesy of The Great North Art Show, which are presenting a fascinating exhibition of art in the cathedral – well worth visiting on its own account.

The Allegri Quartet is Britain’s longest running chamber music ensemble, sustained over 60 years by successive generations of some of our finest international performers. Comprising the fairly usual two violins, viola and cello. The violins being 17th century, viola 1800 and cello late 18th.century – all with exquisite tone.

The acoustics in the Choir of the cathedral are excellent and there was a full audience, which is always good to see, both for the players and the organisers.

Being a Haydn fan I was delighted the evening’s music began with his Quartet in G minor Op 74 No 3, known as ‘The Rider’ – why do so many of Haydn’s compositions have nicknames? In this case it is due to the to the galloping nature of the 4th movement ‘Allegro con brio’. However, my favourite is the 2nd ‘largo assai’, which I find very profound and moving. Haydn was one of the first composers to use the relatively new format of quartets and it coincided with his first visit to London at the end of the 18th century.

The players in the Allegri Quartet were excellent and I was particularly impressed by Ofer Falk – first violin, whose musicianship was an absolute delight. There timing was perfect and they all complimented each other.

Second up was Beethoven’s Quartet in B flat Op 18 No 6 – for Beethoven this set of 6 quartets was a new venture, reflecting his admiration of Haydn and some say there is a subtle hint of Haydn’s influence in the opening movement ‘Allegro con brio’. The 2nd movement ‘Adagio’ is very melodic and slow whilst a strong driving rhythm is the last two movements main theme, the ending of the final movement being a delight, truly one of Beethoven’s finest works.

After a short interval, the final piece in this fascinating programme was Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No 1 in D major Op 11 – written in the late 19th century it was an immediate success. There was a slight hiccup before the Allegri Quartet commenced the movement, as the cathedral bells began to strike and with much aplomb, they waited patiently for the competition to fade away!Being there listening and watching a live sublime performance – nothing beats it.

George Pyman