Consone String Quartet with Alexander Rolton
Pump Rooms, Leamington
THE CONSONE Quartet made a welcome return to the Pump Rooms picking up the joyous, youthful thread of music-making so disappointingly snagged up by the lockdown and all that involved.
Augmented by a guest cellist, they brought a programme featuring Haydn and Schubert sandwiching a rare treat from George Onslow, a comparatively less frequently seen name on the chamber music circuit.
But what an intriguing work. In a storyline surprisingly not yet snapped up by Hollywood, he completed this quartet while recovering from a serious hunting accident in which he was nearly killed by a stray bullet. The work was used to convey his feelings of near-death fever through to final recovery.
Joining the Consone for this very lyrical quintet cellist Alexander Rolton helped provide a richness of sound and some fabulous bass resonance in a reading that kept the drama of the narrative but allowed the composer’s natural romanticism to shine through.
This fine performance of a work written to record being shot in the neck should provide a shot in the arm too for Onslow’s reputation and future presence on concert programmes.
Schubert’s Quintet in C is a firm favourite when it comes to playing in this format and the performance here brought out all the invention, tonal shifts and sheer melody that the work always seems to possess.
The slow sections were particularly worthy of note. It takes a considerable time in each others’ company for a quartet to be confident in taking the dynamic as quiet as that, and even more so when bringing in an additional player. There were times when note could hardly have been played gentler. Quite captivating and perfectly balanced by the gusto and sweep elsewhere in the work.
There is an odd habit among chamber music programmers to open with a Haydn piece. True there are a lot to choose from and their consistent quality and lack of shocks makes them a safe bet, but in the hands of a quartet as delightfully youthful and vigorous as this they are not to be forgotten as masterful examples of the craft in their own right. Lovely ensemble playing and communication made this the perfect start which could, on any other night, have equally as well been the perfect finale.
The Onslow certainly intrigues and the Schubert confirms its strength, but it’s Haydn I shall be reaching for from the shelves this week.
As February gets under way the musical offerings continue to arrive. Visit leamingtonmusic.org for full details of forthcoming events and booking details.