Marian Poole, Piano Teacher and Music Critic.

Britten’s String Quartet No 2 8 September 2010

A less than capacity house gave tumultuous applause, with much stamping on Glenroy Auditorium’s floorboards for the Doric Quartet’s and Piers Lane’s slick and energetically pointed performance of Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E Flat. The “Allegro” was indeed brilliant; the “Funeral March” alternately terse, fiery and lyrical; the “Scherzo” suitably playful and the final “Allegro” drew the work to a grandly stated close. Pier Lane’s pyrotechnic virtuosic performance of Chopin’s “Nocturne in G” and “Ballade No 4 in F minor” also richly deserved the equally noisy show of appreciation.

The Doric Quartet is noted for its interpretation of Haydn. Their performance of his String Quartet in A was remarkable for the lightness of their touch. It is however a vehicle for the 1st Violin, allowing that instrument it head and keeping the other parts’ interjections slight. It was played with much elegant repose, the final movement’s fugue being exceptionally well picked out.

The highlight of the evening’s works has to be Britten’s String Quartet No 2. Written after Britten, a conscientious objector, walked around a emptied Concentration Camp with famous violinist Yehudi Menuhim, it is a muffled cry of pain and frustration. It also expresses the madness and guttural harshness of human slaughter on an industrial scale. Being almost through composed, it allows the story of the various rooms to be told. Here there is the sound of children running, taps dripping, a lullaby, echoes of Jewish harmonies all emanate as if from silent walls. There is no tidy classically rounded ending here. But resorting to his favourite composer, Purcell, Britten finds a gravely beautiful close in a set of variations which sum up an exhausting experience. This work requires more than just exceptional execution or virtuosic flourish. It is a harrowing story told here with exceptional grace and beauty. Bravo!