CLASSICAL MUSIC / Looking as if he means it: Endellion Quartet - South Bank Centre

For Stravinsky, Rachmaninov at the piano was 'a 6 1/2 ft-tall scowl'. While wonderful sounds emerged from the body of the instrument, Rachmaninov sat like a block of wood, his face registering nothing more than controlled displeasure. Visually Boris Berezovsky is a pianist in the same mould - except that his face doesn't even scowl. His expression during the three Chopin Nocturnes he selected for Wednesday's Queen Elizabeth Hall concert was absolutely deadpan; even the arms and wrists seemed to move no more than was absolutely necessary.

But the resemblance to Rachmaninov doesn't end there. Berezovsky's face and torso expressed nothing simply because the energy, the feeling, the fantasy were being channelled into the piano. The opening Nocturne, Op 55 No 2, was hypnotically beautiful, as subtle and eloquent an example of pianistic bel canto as one could hope to find, yet utterly unegotistic (or, if that's an illusion, it's a masterly one). On paper, proceeding - or rather regressing - from this late masterpiece to the earlier, much more superficial Op 9 No 1 looked like a mistake. In performance, the spell was just the same.

It made a strange contrast with the previous item: Haydn's Quartet in G minor, Op 74 No 3, played by the Endellion Quartet. The slow movement is one of the most unworldly things in all Haydn; even its key, E major, comes as a shock after the G tonality of the first movement - a shame that, as in most performances, this dramatic shift had to be spoiled by half a minute of retuning. Still, this is a different universe from the rarefied salon Chopin - the rhythms in the outer movements were bracing, the atmosphere unmistakably out-of-doors. This music is still strongly aware of roots in the soil - as, it seemed, were the Endellion.

Brahms's Piano Quintet, after the interval, offered a kind of fusion, bringing together not only Berezovsky and the Endellion, but also the romantic poetry of Chopin and the earthiness and intellectual power of Haydn. Playing was outstanding on all sides - with only passing hints of tiredness from the strings towards the end of the finale - and the effort to create a unity between the opposed worlds of piano and string quartet could be seen in the way the players looked at each other. I've heard few performances in which volume and tone colour have been as well balanced.

Berezovsky obviously didn't intend to steal the show, but in terms of sheer artistry he stood out even against the more than capable Endellions. There were moments in the first two movements where the expression reached an almost ideal blend of naturalness and power - here, as in the Chopin, Berezovsky appears incapable of self-consciousness. In the elemental Scherzo, his face did at last register something like a grimace and the arms began to swing more energetically. Even at the terrific pace set by cellist David Waterman in the opening pizzicatos, Berezovsky's articulation was spectacularly clear, the rapid repeated notes at the climax emerging like machine-gun fire.

The performance of the finale that followed was of that rare kind which makes one wonder how this movement could ever have been dismissed as 'episodic' or 'sprawling'; that triumph, however, could only have been a team achievement.

Next concert (Schubert: Death and the Maiden Quartet; Quintet in C): tomorrow 3pm QEH, South Bank Centre, SE1 (071-928 8800)

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week