EIF Music review: Chiaroscuro Quartet, Queen’s Hall

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Chiaroscuro Quartet | Queen’s Hall | Star rating: ****

While it’s possible to speculate on the thinking behind the stunning Chiaroscuro Quartet’s programme yesterday, it still leaves curiosity about why they settled on this particular choice of Bach, Haydn and Schubert, in that order. Composers whose lives chronologically overlapped, there was clear-cut historic progression, but the Bach and Schubert leave a bit of a niggle.

Although Death and the Maiden sounded fresh and vigorous, particularly on the gut strings that give the Chiaroscuro their distinctive depth of voice, hearing such a high-calibre ensemble perform repertoire newer to their audiences might have brought even more reward. Nonetheless, and tuning challenges aside, this was Schubert in driving swings of expression from troubled aggression to poignant lyricism, especially from first violin Alina Ibragimova. Three Contrapuncti from Bach’s The Art of Fugue weren’t written for string quartet. Their four-part scoring is, however, suited to the genre, with the pure beauty of No I and the faster tempo of No IX working more effectively than the reverential meanderings of No IV. Playfulness was present in Haydn’s Op 76 No 6, the players melting in and out of each other’s melodic lines.