Classical & Opera: Highly strung - Lovett

It is, perhaps, not often that a legendary chamber musician openly endorses the virtues of another ensemble, but that state of affairs prevails in the Wigmore Hall this week when Martin Lovett, cellist of the great Amadeus Quartet, joins the Voces String Quartet of Romania (right) in two string quintets. The concert, promoted by the Park Lane Group, simultaneously marks the PLG's 25th Anniversary and that of the Voces Quartet who gave their debut concert on 8 April, 1973. However, though the quartet - all graduates of the Georges Enescu Academy - may be celebrating their silver jubilee this spring, the Wigmore date still forms a belated London debut.

"For far too long the situation in Romania didn't permit this fine quartet to gain the worldwide recognition they so obviously deserve," says Martin Lovett. "I first became aware of them in the early 1980s when the Amadeus Quartet became mentors of the Voces at the Cologne Hochschule fur Musik and have remained a committed fan and kept in touch ever since." Why? "Well, for a start, I believe they are very fine musicians - technically brilliant, well balanced and with a highly sharp ensemble. Then, there is something about this Romanian sound which is difficult to quantify, but is simply different to the standard western European quartet timbre. Perhaps something more rugged, more intrepid - one certainly can't fault the emotional commitment of the Voces, either. To my mind, they always set out wanting to penetrate right to the heart of the music."

The Voces air their talents, firstly, in Haydn's Op74 No1 quartet and, after the interval, Lovett joins them as second cello for Schubert's great Quintet in C, D 956. "What can one say about the Schubert?" he asks rhetorically. "It's just a favourite piece of music of so many people, and rightly so, because it is a sublime work. But, sadly, it's one of the very few top- notch string quintets to employ a pair of cellos and so we're attempting to add to that repertoire by also giving the Brahms Op34 Piano Quintet in an all-string transcription."

"Brahms, in point of fact, originally conceived the piece as a string quintet and Clara Schumann was very fond of that version, but, for some reason, he destroyed his first thoughts and the piece later emerged as a piano quintet. But one can see from the writing that two cellos fit the music very well, as the Brahms scholar Sebastian Brown realised, and that's why he reconstructed the work as a quintet. Having said that, it hasn't been played in London since its premiere in 1946. What an ideal companion for the Schubert."

And what an ideal companion for the Voces is Martin Lovett, who continues to amaze with his pristine cello technique. Has he any thoughts of retiring? "Not at all," he says. "In this business you just keep going, and I still enjoy and relish my music-making a great deal, especially so in a concert like this where London audiences can hear a new quartet playing a new piece by Brahms... and I'm very glad to be the invited guest at the banquet."

The Voces String Quartet with Martin Lovett give their programme at Eton College School Hall (01844 353386) 6 Apr, 7.45pm and at the Wigmore Hall, London W1 (0171-935 2141) 8 Apr, 7.30pm

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