Sacconi String Quartet

Concert date: 19 March 2016
Reviewed by: JRC

Sacconi String Quartet after their Nadsa concert at the Performing Arts Centre Teignmouth, with Joanna Williams of sponsors Wollen Michelmore Solicitors.

The Sacconi String Quartet brought more than a breath of fresh air to Mozart and Schubert: they brought energising vitality that gave the music captivating drama. Mozart's 'Hoffmeister' String Quartet is a very popular work and too easily slips into the category of pleasant background muzak; but here the first unison note of the Allegretto movement caught our attention with an eerie perfection of pitch. What followed was a feast of lightness of of touch, delicacy of small and large scale phrasing, a unity between players, and a delightfully clean pure sound. Added to which, the Sacconi gave this Mozart a strength and depth that is often lacking in more blandly familiar renderings. The Menuetto's great spirit and firm rhythm definitely danced. A complete mood change was ushered in with the Adagio: basically 'legato with feeling'. Sensitive crescendos, diminuendos, rubatos and a hint of vibrato made for a beautiful lyricism. The cracking pace of the Allegro, with its swirls, took us to an energetic finale.

The programme's 'filling' between our staples of Mozart and Schubert, was the work 'Servant'[1992] by the Cornish extant composer Graham Fitkin. Its bold attack I found almost an assault of the senses, but the persistent rhythmic intensity gave way to well held changes of mood, some of sublime melancholy. It was good to hear Fitkin give the viola a melodic lead, and to experience the tension maintained by the quartet, playing as one, through huge dynamic contrasts. And then there was the first violin's pianissimo to die for! The rhythmic intensity returned to hurl us to the end of this exciting piece.

Schubert's String Quartet No 15, his last, was written when he knew he was terminally ill. It is a monumental innovative work packed with tension, anguish and not a little pathos. The first Allegro movement soon presented us with a mix of major and minor chords and extensive use of tremolo with dramatic dynamics that, with some pizzicato, were very unsettling. The Andante, whilst also having changes of mood with outbursts of agitated tremolo, was notable for its plaintive cello line where some vibrato was used to excellent effect. The lighter, but still edgy with tremolo, Scherzo had a calmer section allowing melodic lines to sing out. The final Allegro was delivered with great spirit, the Sacconi throwing themselves into a demonic rendering; a quasi-tarantella kept the death drama with us to the end.

This was a superb concert both for programme structure and its performance. The Sacconi String Quartet are certainly worth following.