Because of a safety issue in The Attenborough Centre this concert was held in the University’s Meeting House. Despite the cold inside the building ( there were problems with the heating ) it proved a magical setting for the concert, with the sun shining through the panels of coloured glass creating an almost exotic aura. The chairs had been arranged in a semicircle around the players adding a degree of intimacy to the occasion.
After a welcoming introduction by the cellist, the group launched into their first piece, Mendelssohn’s String Quartet Op. 44 No. 1. The joyous opening had tremendous energy and this was sustained throughout the movement.
The Minuet, which follows, had a lovely sense of flow and the extraordinary central trio section with its scurrying rhythms whizzed by.
The third movement, an Andante marked espressivo moto was beautifully and tenderly phrased, and the last movement, which returns to the energy of the first, was played with a real sense of joie de vivre.
The group then played a piece by Benjamin Attahir for string quartet with the title Al’Asr. I remember hearing it when they played it at a Coffee Concert in April 2018 and was very impressed then. The composer has apparently been working on the piece since then and the version we heard on Sunday was stunning. It was in one long movement full of contrasting ideas, lyrical passages, moments of great calm and an abiding sense of forward moving energy. The more advanced techniques were beautifully integrated into the overall thematic and harmonic texture, with sometimes quite subtly conventional passages weaving in and out of the more adventurous ones. The Arod’s commitment to the piece and all its subtle variety of moods was total and towards the end they launched into the tremendous fugue (!) with its striking thematic subject, leading to the pieces exhilarating and thrilling close.
Their performance was met with a roar of applause from the audience, wonderful to hear for a new work.
After a longer than normal interval due to the fact the audience had to walk back to the Attenborough Centre for refreshments, the concert ended with a marvelous performance of Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor Op. 10. The group beautifully captured all the contrasts of the piece, from a robust statement of the opening principal theme to the flow of the lyrical second theme of the first movement, then the dance elements of the second movement and its shimmering textures, the mysterious and serene chords of the third movement and the contrast between the moments of reflection and statements of great power in the final movement.
All three performances were met with enthusiastic applause, and I’m sure most members of the audience like me can’t wait to hear this group again!