Arts review: Dante Quartet, Ripon Cathedral

ON A cold winter’s evening on January 14 , Ripon Cathedral resounded with wonderfully warm sounds from the Dante String Quartet. The players, through individual virtuosity, emonstrated huge variety of expression, dramatic presence, shapeliness of phrase, rhythmic precision and high musicianship in a programme of music by Haydn, Smetana and Beethoven.

A particularly lovely moment emerged from the cellist, Richard Jenkinson, with the solo opening the slow movement from Smetana’s Quartet No 1.

The evening began with the freshness of sound and lively rhythmic impetus of Haydn. The first movement of his string quartet in G, Op 33 No 5 was beautifully balanced, precise in attack and also with subtle mood changes. It was an approach which was sensitive to the mainly light and clear original tonal colours. The slow movement in particular presented a shapely melody from Oscar Perks (first violin) with light accompaniment and occasional octave dramatic moments to develop a sensitive sense of purpose. The scherzo and theme and variations finale concluded matters in typically lively style.

Quite a different style of playing was immediately evident in Smetana’s autobiographical string Quartet No 1 in E minor From my life. Expansively led now by Krysia Osostowicz, the sound of the quartet was immediately intense, full of dramatic presence and brooding yearning, if with the odd moment of harshness occasionally reducing the intense warmth. The intensity of projection created similar concentration from members of the audience, who shared the changes of mood, felt the earthy dance of the Polka second movement, the sense of youthful love in the shapely third movement and the older anguish such as in the famous evocation of tinnitus in the finale.

After a highly contrasting and demanding first half, the second half comprised one work, the first of Beethoven’s Razumovsky quartets, Op 59 No 1. The music incorporated Russian themes at the request of Count Razumovsky, the sponsor, and the melodic invention resulting was emarkable. Beethoven took the opportunity to create a work of symphonic proportion, with four full sonata form movements, technically demanding, emotionally emanding, with a very wide dynamic and pitch range. Balance in the playing was impeccable, with some lovely ounds

emerging periodically from Yuko Inoue’s viola playing.

After 40 minutes of intensity and mood changes, the conclusion of the fourth movement encapsulates the quality of the overall performance from the Dante, phrases of thoughtful introspection giving way to a vigorous exuberance and positive conviction.

Ripon is fortunate to have such quality in its environs, and such fine leadership in the Cathedral Concert Society to arrange this is to be applauded.

Clive Harries