Wigmore Hall, London
The Tokyo String Quartet make a fabulous sound: rich, bright and ripely resonant. Their performances have the reassuring momentum one expects of a well-upholstered limousine cornering at high speed, with Martin Beaver's first violin always fluently in control at the steering wheel. But in this Wigmore recital, these fine qualities somehow often seemed to overload the programme at the expense of the individual character of the music within.
Take Haydn's penultimate completed quartet in G, Op 77 No 1, with which the Tokyos opened. After a single brisk chord, Haydn's gentle allegro first movement announces itself in a sly little figure for the first violin, accompanied by an infectiously perky staccato from the other players that is almost balletic. It is a beguiling and slightly threatening piece of writing, yet the Tokyos sailed blithely through this and the adagio with almost a surfeit of beautiful tone and the volume level set a little too high. It was only in the minuet that the pungency of the playing seemed to match the interchanges of the piece.
Much the same applied to Debussy's 1893 String Quartet. On one level, it was all wonderfully done, with not an inflection missed and every harmonic surge fabulously articulated. But where was the magic? Or the sense of compositional originality in which this score is saturated? This was old-style French cooking: the sauce was too rich to allow any taste of the music's fresh flavours.
When Andreas Haefliger joined the quartet for Brahms's Piano Quintet after the interval, the recital at last gained what it had previously lacked. Haefliger's crispness and spontaneity gave the opening allegro a real sense of urgency and danger. The light and shade of the andante generated real music-making, and the anguished opening to the finale led to an allegro in which all that assembled technique felt as if it was being put to an authentic purpose.
"InstantEncore made launching a mobile app seem effortless."