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Review: Solem String Quartet perform Haydn, Brahms and Beethoven for music@stansted

Sunday’s music@stansted concert saw the Solem String Quartet deliver over two hours of some of the greatest string quartets from the Big German composers who first mastered the art.

Starting with Haydn’s ‘The Lark’, this young group immediately showed their mature ensemble playing of works that they have clearly strived to make their own.

While the concert was about the quartet in its archetypal staple form, the Solem, who are the quartet in residence at Liverpool University, play over a wide range including new commissions and a specialisation in performing the works of Bartok and Beethoven from memory. They are presently touring with a cult film, The Lobster Live, performing the soundtrack of parts of various quartets as live performances during showings of the film, to great acclaim.

Solem String Quartet in concert in St John's Church in Stansted (27732143)
Solem String Quartet in concert in St John's Church in Stansted (27732143)

The second work was Brahms’ A-minor quartet, the second of Opus 51 and one of only three that he wrote. The shadow of Beethoven’s genius meant this work was the result of endless revision and discarded prototypes. The resulting lyrical masterpiece has long movements, giving Solem ample opportunity to create real atmosphere that held the audience until the final chord.

After an interval including mulled wine and shortbread, we returned to a single huge work, Beethoven’s Op 127 in E-flat, the first of his late quartets. The Solem rose to the challenge, delivering a well-structured and perfectly voiced rendition, a real performance.

As Schubert said of these late quartets: “After this, what is there left for us to write?”

Colin Smithers

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