REVIEW: Albion Quartet, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate

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We were privileged to have the Albion Quartet performing for us at the Harrogate International Festivals coffee morning concert.

It is moving up the ladder as one of the most successful and accomplished quartets in the UK. Comprising Tamsin Waley-Cohen, violin – Emma Parker, violin – Rosalind Ventris, viola and Nathaniel Boyd, cello. There was a full house in the Old Swan Hotel, but sadly not many young people.

We started with Haydn’s String Quartet No 3 in C major. I am a great lover of Haydn’s music and this was no exception and what was interesting is the hymn like 2nd movement which we know as Glorious things of thee are spoken with a number of variations to this theme.

It is evident that these fine young musicians are very familiar with each other, their playing is crisp and inspiring. The viola is a always the butt of jokes, but I thought Rosalind Ventris bought a strength to the instrument which you don’t always see.

After the interval we had a performance of Josef Kuk Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale St Wenceslas written in 1914 it was a subtle protest against the Austrian-Hungarian empire.

It was an unusual piece with the viola taking the lead. The four instruments in close harmony adding to the emotional intensity with chords fading away to silence.

The Albion Quartet members are Dvorak devotees and are recording all his quartets. I believe this is the first time they have played Dvorak’s string quartet No 5.

It had a chequered start in life. It was rejected by the Bennewitz Quartet for whom it was written and was not performed again until after Dvorak’s death. This was in 1929. I find this strange because it was an excellent composition full of great musicality and exciting playing. There is no doubt that the Albion Quartet is a fine string quartet and its reputation that came ahead of the appearance in Harrogate was justified.

The next and last coffee morning concert this year – Martin James Bartlett, piano, on Sunday April 15 at 11am.