This was a wonderful evening of stunning chamber music. The Carducci String Quartet is a top class ensemble and the Gala Concert programme had something for everyone. 

Haydn String Quartet Op33 No.2 in E flat ” the Joke”

This was the perfect piece with which to begin the concert and set the mood right from the start with light playful question and answer motifs shared between the instruments. 

The Carducci quartet really got into their stride by the 4th movement playing with great vigour and attention to detail – we were almost overdosing on playfulness and fun. 

Matthew Denton’s joy in the music was such that at times he almost rose from his chair. This was when I first noticed his highly polished black shoes, seated as I was, on the front row with his feet at eye level. This then turned into a bit of a’shoe off’ when Nicholas Daniel came on stage rocking a pair of stand out sparkly black shoes – which I must admit were a bit of a distraction, suffering as I was from shoe envy. 

It was very satisfying that so many people were caught out by ‘the joke’ at the end of the fourth movement and ended up clapping the several false endings. But this was taken in good part and there was much good – humoured chuckling from the audience.

Ravel String Quartet in F Major

This is one of my favourite String Quartets and I was in ‘Chamber Music Heaven’ for the duration of this piece. 
This was committed, expressive playing showing the full range of dynamics. The ensemble was perfectly together, even the sway of their bows and bodies felt choreographed as the quartet moved as one. For me it was quite simply perfect. Job done!

Michael Berkeley oboe quintet ‘ Into the Ravine’

Composed for The Carducci Quartet and Nicholas Daniel by Michael Berkeley and inspired by a John Craxton painting that had belonged to his father Sir Lennox Berkeley, this work is designed in a 18 minute single – movement span. 

In a Grassington Festival first, as far as I am aware, Nicholas Daniel read his music from an i pad which he controlled using a foot pedal. However in his introduction he brought an element of uncertainty to the proceedings by mentioning that he’d had problems with it earlier. You could immediately feel the audience’s anxiety levels go up a notch in sympathy. However we need not have worried, apart from suffering from the effects of very hot stage lights, he gave a gripping, brilliantly controlled performance.

Arnold Bax Oboe Quintet

This work was composed in 1922 and dedicated to the celebrated oboist Leon Gooseens who Nicholas Daniels informed us always asked for ‘plenty of time off’- aka bars rest. Bax duly complied with this request, which meant that Nicholas Daniel was able to sit back for long periods and enjoy the stunning performance of his fellow musicians.

In three movements it is at times reminiscent of Ravel and Mahler. The second movement gave us the opportunity to appreciate the beautifully rich tone of Eoin Schmidt- Martin’s viola whilst the oboe was ‘resting’. Bax had an emotional attachment to Ireland and the influence of Irish folksong can be heard throughout this piece particularly in the 4th movement’s catchy melodies, lively jig rhythms and colouristic effects. The Carducci Quartet and Nicholas Daniels did full justice to this work and it was a great way to end the Gala Concert.

It’s far too tempting for a string quartet to play to each other and ignore the audience, but The Carducci Quartet and Nicholas Daniels play with such passion and commitment that they are able to cross that invisible barrier between the stage and audience and connect with their listeners. Added to which it is lovely to see performers so relaxed and at ease with each other. A quick google search revealed the reason for that – The Carducci Quartet consists of two married couples, which explains why the ensemble had an almost telepathic sense of unity.

This was a superb concert and a worthy successor to last year’s Gala Concert, which featured Peter Donohoe and Raphael Wallfisch. So the pressure’s now on The Grassington Festival organising committee to come up with something equally special for next year.

The concert featured Nicholas Daniel (oboe) and The Carducci String Quartet Matthew Denton (violin) Michelle Fleming (violin) Eoin Schmidt- Martin Viola) Emma Denton (cello).

The Yorkshire Times,  23 June 2014

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