Classical review: quartet-lab, Wigmore Hall, London

5.00

 

Signifying their subversive intent with a lower-case title, quartet-lab aim to revolutionise the quartet repertoire. They are led by the charismatic Pekka Kuusisto, whose credentials as a jazz and folk violinist are as impressive as those for his classical work. Maverick Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey has long pioneered unusual arrangements, and with Kuusisto’s Finnish compatriot Lilli Maijala as violist, and with the Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja - who inherited a wider musical perspective from her cimbalom-playing father – these are all seasoned innovators.

Their Wigmore debut was non-standard from the start, as Kuusisto - backed by Wispelwey looking quizzical, Kopatchinskaja intense in a green ball-dress, and Maijala got up like a peasant from a Diaghilev ballet - announced that they’d intersperse the main works of the programme with others they’d just decided on. But first they played Mozart’s ever-popular “Divertimento in D K136”, written when he was sixteen, and still in debate as to whether he intended it for a quartet or a small orchestra. The way quartet-lab attacked it made it sound like an orchestra anyway, so full-blooded was their sound; intermittent rough edges were a small trade-off for the general gutsy swing.

Then Kuusisto and Kopatchinskaja delivered three of Bartok’s “Duos for 2 violins” – the first sounding like interlaced female voices, the second like bagpipes, and the third in crazy pizzicato – after which viola and cello joined them for a hushed arrangement of Byrd’s “Sanctus”, for which they bleached their tone to imitate viols.

Seguing straight from that into Beethoven’s terse and mysterious “Serioso” quartet was a coup de theatre, and for the first movement their sound had all the muddy savagery which could be desired. If they short-changed us on the beauty of the majestic Allegretto melody, they made up for it with a ferocious finale, complete with clouds of flying bow-hair.

The second half was just as riveting, starting with two more Bartok duos (this time with viola and violin, creating a new texture) followed by the lament from Britten’s “Cello Suite”, before seguing – as though it was the most natural thing in the world – into a performance of that composer’s “String Quartet No 2”, where their combined virtuosity took the breath away.

For an encore they hoicked a young violist out of the audience to play the monotone solo part in Purcell’s slitheringly plangent “Fantasia upon one note”, as Britten himself had once done. An evening and a half.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living