Standing ovation richly deserved

Once again, the Carducci Quartet held their Shrewsbury audience spellbound with performances of works by the greatest writers of string quartets from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

This was the second concert in the series “Vienna to Moscow,” part of Shropshire Music Trust’s excellent programme – a welcome return to live music for which the venue was St Alkmund’s Church.

This was a fine piece of programme planning: “The Joke” quartet by Haydn set the evening off to a light, breezy start, catching out the listeners with the fake endings – and they loved it!

The resonant acoustics of the church worked wonders for the sound of this superb group. Emma Denton’s cello has a glorious richness which was perfectly matched by the violins of Matthew Denton and Michelle Fleming and the viola of Eoin Schmidt-Martin.

The pairing of Shostakovich’s 8th Quartet in C minor with Beethoven’s Quartet No. 15 in A minor was an inspired choice. Each is a highly personal work with an opening which foreshadows the intensity and the spirituality of the entire composition.

The Russian work, dating from 1960, was written at a time of suicidal despair for its composer. How lucky we are that he was talked down from that awful state and went on to leave us many masterpieces. In all five movements the work displays an extraordinary sound palette, every one played perfectly and at ideal tempi.

The “Molto Adagio” of Beethoven’s 15th Quartet is sublime, a hymn of thanks to God. Emotionally though perhaps not musically it has the intensity of the closing passages of the composer’s only opera “Fidelio.”

As in the rest of the work, the playing of the Carducci players was beyond criticism – the wonderful way in which they make music as one, the careful yet seemingly spontaneous sound they project was sublime.

Once again, the Carducci players were thanked by their audience with a standing ovation. Once again, it was richly deserved.

Review by Andrew Petch

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