Anthony Marwood And Friends, Wigmore Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

Had Mozart ever got round to emulating his idol J S Bach to the extent of composing a sonata or suite for unaccompanied violin or cello, this Wigmore Hall programme by that silver-toned violinist Anthony Marwood and four accomplished colleagues would have become the ultimate Expanding Mozart concert.

As it was, we began with the by no means insubstantial three-movement Duo for violin and viola, No 1 in G, K423. This was the first of a pair he scribbled in 1783 to help his ailing Salzburg friend Michael Haydn (younger brother of Joseph) meet a threatening deadline, yet it packs in as much substance and variety of texture as many a string quartet. And the sweetly-focused ease that Marwood brought to the conversational give-and-take of the first movement, with violist Louise Williams, already promised an exceptional evening's music making.

This was more than fulfilled by their rapt reading of the deceptively titled Divertimento in E flat for string trio, K563, in which they were joined by cellist Richard Lester - deceptively, because this six-movement structure remains one of the most spacious in Mozart's chamber output, not to say the all-time model of how to handle this seemingly limited medium with endless resourcefulness. Here, the highpoint was their measured unfolding of the serene Adagio second movement, its passing tensions feelingly inflected by varied bow-pressures and degrees of vibrato.

With the arrival of second violinist Catherine Manson after the interval, Marwood and co launched into possibly the greatest of the batch of six works Mozart dedicated to Haydn in 1782, the String Quartet No 15 in D minor, K421 - admirably restraining themselves from hamming up the tragic rhetoric of the laconic opening movement. A pity then, that the slightly studied casualness, with hasty phrasing and truncated rests, that they brought to the lilting Andante second movement provided the only less than wholly musical stretch of the whole concert.

Lester's quizzical characterisation of the rising cello arpeggios that punctuate the introduction to the magnificent String Quintet No 5 in D, K593 - in which the players were finally joined by second violist Judith Busbridge - instantly restored a sense of due measure, which was not lost, this time, even in the relatively forward-moving tempo chosen for the Adagio slow movement. When we got to the incredibly inventive finale, Marwood had already been playing for well over two hours in a hall unaccountably heated on this occasion to what felt like 90F. Yet, seemingly fresh as ever, he proceeded to lead a marvellously vivacious pay-off, sending a capacity audience out into the night, hearts dancing.