Clive O’Connell, The Age
May 31, 2011
ON THEIR third Musica Viva tour, the Brentano String Quartet again affirmed their interest in music rarely heard from a modern ensemble.
Saturday night began with four brief Renaissance works from Britain: two fantasias by Gibbons and a pair of In Nomines by Byrd. While the group showed admirable clarity of output, accented even more by the minimal vibrato employed alongside an insightful dynamic weighting, the quality of timbre impressed as hard-edged and lacking the nuances produced by an expert chest of viols.
For a steely secure product, the Brentanos deserve high praise but their exploration of this music, apart from Nina Maria Lee’s ardent cello contribution, often impressed as a series of technical studies.
For this program, the players chose Mozart, K.421 in D minor, the second of the set dedicated to Haydn and a marvel of construction in its outer movements. First violin Mark Steinberg relished the elasticity of the work’s top line, his sinewy vigour well matched by Misha Amory’s trenchant viola, which gave breadth to the slow movement and finale variations.
But what distinguished this recital was a revisiting of the last Beethoven quartet, the F major Op. 135, where the Brentanos managed to animate pages that are very well known. Without grinding through the modulations or giving aggressive weight to the score’s emotional content, these gifted players found and followed a consistent vein of lyrical light.
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