October 14 2021
Review: William Ruff
Musical conversations both civilised and generous
It fell to visitors from Germany, the Notos Quartet, to remind the Lakeside audience just what they had been missing over the last 18 months. Live streaming to a computer is all very well but there is nothing which can replace the intensity of sharing the same intimate physical space as a fine ensemble creating music both subtle and profound.
They started their programme with a Movement in A minor by the young Gustav Mahler. It has just about nothing in common with those vast, idiosyncratic symphonies which were to be the composer’s lasting legacy. No one’s quite sure why he wrote it (for a concert or competition perhaps?) but it’s a strikingly dramatic piece and the Notos Quartet were particularly good at infusing the drama with more than a touch of melancholy. It may be an early student work but they clearly believed in it.
Then came some mature Mozart, his Quartet in E flat, a work whose technical and emotional demands must have challenged its first audiences. However, it’s a genial work and became a brilliant showpiece for the Notos Quartet’s pianist Antonia Köster. At times it sounded like a small-scale piano concerto, demanding playing both charismatic and democratic as the piano and strings blend together. The Notos performance was beautifully balanced, the musical conversation always civilised and generous. The slow movement was a highlight: effortlessly, unaffected and subtle in its control of dynamics. The finale was graceful, vital and playful.
After the interval came Brahms’ A major Piano Quartet, a work of epic proportions with the emotional clout to match. The work started full of poise and lyricism (which the four players did with tenderness and serenity) but it was the power and exotic flavours of the Scherzo and Finale which so gripped and exhilarated. This may have been the Notos Quartet’s first invitation to Lakeside but I suspect it won’t be the last.
Sindri Lederer, violin
Andrea Burger, viola
Philip Graham, cello
Antonia Köster, piano