Stratford Herald, March 2015

 

Stratford Herald

March 26, 2015

by Clive Peacock

Earlier in the month Villiers emerged as the winners of the Radcliffe Competition in Oxford entitling them to a three year residency within Oxford University. Their rivals included previous Leamington Music performers Piatti and the much talked about Ligeti. Villiers impressed the Leamington audience, just as they impressed the Oxford jury, with an impassioned performance of Elgar’s String Quartet in E minor Opus 83, composed in 1918 and dedicated to the original Brodsky Quartet. This remains as only one of three major chamber works Elgar composed – an earlier string quartet, Opus 8 he destroyed. The seclusion of a cottage in West Sussex, to escape the war, gave Elgar the inspiration to compose.

James Dickenson led the three punishing movements confidently, maintaining the quartet’s reputation for adventurous interpretations of English composers. The middle of the three movements (piacevole) is indeed a most agreeable movement, “capturing the sunshine” as Lady Elgar described it.

If there is a quartet that typifies what it means to be unjustly neglected then it’s the String Quartet by Delius! Fortunately, viola player Carmen Flores, took the opportunity to promote this piece and describe the Delius background; the impact of time spent in Jacksonville, Florida; the Leipzig and Paris highlights and the influence of Wagner and Grieg producing some of the most lyrical music to emerge from the pen of an Englishman. What a joy to listen to her word-perfect delivery with every word heard by all, together with a bit of humour – an excellent demonstration of building rapport with an audience!

With elements of Ravel and something of Debussy, the Delius Quartet in the hands of Villiers has moments of thoughtful animation which suits them well, most particularly the ‘Late Swallows’ third movement reflecting the Delius wish to return to France from Germany where he achieved much of his success. Flores viola playing was memorable.

Villiers chose to open their concert with Haydn’s 46th quartet, Opus 55 No2 in F minor (nicknamed the razor). Lots of concentration, clever interpretation of pauses and intricate work between cello (Nick Stringfellow) and viola were noted hallmarks of this enterprising quartet.

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