The York Press, November 2013

The York Press

November 18, 2013
Review by Martin Dreyer

The Villiers are cagey about when they first got together. They needn’t be. Although it can barely be five years, they already had deep experience of playing in other ensembles.

It showed throughout their programme of Beethoven, Elgar and Glass for the British Music Society of York (BMS) on Friday.

For this is no quartet of young tyros. The opening Allegro of Beethoven’s Op 18 No 6 was confidently, but not condescendingly, signposted. There was an engaging serenity to the Adagio. Although its trio was a little rough at the edges, the Scherzo’s cross-accents were joyously precise.

But it was the mystical melancholy which opens the finale that took the breath away, brilliantly balanced by a feather-light Allegretto. This movement rarely sounds so persuasive.

Philip Glass’s Fifth String Quartet (1991) depends heavily for its effect on a rock-steady cello line. Nick Stringfellow provided that and more: a solid foundation off which his colleagues could bounce their theatricality.

The potential for monotony of Glass’s minimalism was thus neatly sidestepped, the upper voices matching his commitment and concentration.

After such metronomic tempos, it was a relief to encounter Elgar’s late E minor quartet, which gives the lie to the composer’s sometimes starchy reputation.

In the Villiers’ hands, this was English romanticism in full flood. Especially effective were the slow movement’s heartfelt pastorale, finely chiselled, and the finale’s race for the tape. Experience will out. We shall hear more of this group.