Bennewitz Quartet 20th December 2015 – Review by Guy Richardson and Helen Simpson

Mary McKean, chair of Strings Attached, welcomed the audience and encouraged members to renew their subscriptions. A number of new members were recruited and confirm that the series is now firmly on the Brighton concert calendar.

This return visit by the Bennewitz Quartet comprised a very varied programme. Their first item was a quartet by Dussek, his Opus 60 No 3. The opening Allegro featured strikingly independent writing for the four instruments, contrasting rhythmic passages, with rather Beethovenian off-beats, with more lyrical and elegant writing.The second movement, featuring an attractive ornamented melody, led to our surprise straight into a lively scherzo. The energetic finale moved to a tremendous fugal passage before the return of its main theme.

As with the other two pieces in their programme, Stepan Jezek the second violin, gave an excellent introductory talk to the next work, Janacek’s passionate First Quartet. This, less frequently performed than his Second Quartet, was given an intense and committed performance.

The first movement contrasts the opening expressive yearning motif with a rhythmic dance-like theme on the cello, here played with great liveliness, and built up to three ecstatic and expressive climaxes, before subsiding into a tender reference to the opening.The sul ponticello interjections in the quirky second movement still come over to our modern ears as a shock and the group beautifully brought out all the variety of moods. The contrast in the third movement between the poignant opening and the angry outbursts was really gripping. The final movement, after a recollection of the opening motif played with mutes and here with great tenderness, moved towards its joyful, highly rhythmic climax, only to be cut short by a transformation of the opening of the work.

The Bennewitz in the first movement of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet beautifully highlighted the drama between the opening chords and the more lyrical episodes.In the second movement the forte outbursts were played with great strength and there was a real beauty and purity of tone in the quieter passages.After a driving rhythmic scherzo they launched into a thrilling and exuberant finale. Throughout the whole programme the musicians communicated a high degree of involvement and played as if their lives depended on it.

As an encore they played an arrangement of a Bach chorale, which was perhaps a rather subdued close to an otherwise exhilarating concert.