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S&H Recital review

Bartok, Schubert, Haydn, Endellion Quartet (Andrew Watkinson vn; Ralph de Souza vn; Garfield Jackson va; David Waterman vc). Wigmore Hall, 7.30pm, 30 January 2002 (SD)


From a top-notch ensemble who have won awards for their Haydn quartets, the Endellion's performance of Op 54 No 2 (admittedly not one of Haydn's most inspirational quartets) was remarkably earthbound. They made a good start, taking the opening Vivace at quite a lick, and Andrew Watkinson tackled the athletic first violin line with bright, sparkling tone, precision and fluidity, while ensemble was excellent. I felt he could have made more of the rhapsodic gypsy flights of the Adagio; here, as in the following Minuet, tuning was occasionally sour. Nor did the unusual Adagio finale - done pretty prosaically, do much to raise the pulse rate.

The group settled down in Schubert's Rosamunde Quartet, wonderfully conveying its bittersweet, yearning tone despite occasional imprecise ensemble and some intermittent weakness in first violin tone. The Andante was a model of poise and grace, with some beautifully fluid legato from Watkinson and a thrillingly exciting moment of turbulence before the reprise. A blithely innocent Trio, contrasting with the fatalistic Minuet, and a crisp, authentically rustic finale rounded the work off well.

Having redeemed themselves in Schubert, the players really hit their stride in Bartok's Fourth Quartet, a vehement, unfettered work saturated with the Hungarian folk spirit glimpsed in the first slow movement of the Haydn. In the serene night music at the work's centre David Waterman was eloquent in the cello's improvisatory solo - his big opportunity to take the limelight - and the jazz-like accompanying voices were suitably sensuous. Much visceral excitement was provided by the unpredictable Allegretto pizzicato, whose colourful 'snap' and glissando pizzicatos (among other effects) were perfectly timed. In this work more than the others the Endellions really seemed to be enjoying themselves. A punchy Allegro molto made a charismatic and arresting end to an evening which began routinely but got steadily better.

Sarah Dunlop

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