Review: the Dante Quartet at Sidmouth Parish Church

Dante Quartet. Picture: Philip Pratt

Dante Quartet. Picture: Philip Pratt - Credit: Philip Pratt

The Dante Quartet ‘produced musicianship of the very highest order’ in their third appearance in the Sidmouth Music series of concerts.

Inviting artists back to perform a second time carries a slight risk that it might not live up to expectations.

For their third appearance in the Sidmouth Music series of concerts in the Parish Church on Saturday, March 23, the Dante Quartet produced musicianship of the very highest order, dispelling any such doubts with a programme of Haydn, Howells and Beethoven.

From the opening note of Haydn’s Maiden quartet, the players’ total integration was evident, giving the music a precision to be marvelled at. The song-like second movement had a delicious yearning feel , the third was a jolly scherzo, and the finale suave and urbane right up to its energetic conclusion.

The Dante Quartet recently completed acclaimed recordings of the works of Stanford, but has now turned its attention to Herbert Howells, a pupil of Stanford, and next performed his third quartet, In Gloucestershire.

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Much of Howell’s output is in the English pastoral style of Vaughan Williams and others, but this quartet is no bucolic journey through the countryside; instead developing intense emotional power, perhaps a reflection of the early death of Howell’s son.

The Dante quartet well portrayed the vision of gentle countryside with which the work begins, but by the end of the first movement the intense undertones are developing.

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Through a brisk second movement, a passionate and elegiac third and the rhythmic and emotional finale, the players gave this music everything it needed, earning rousing applause from the audience to close the first half.

The second half was given over to a single work, the second of Beethoven’s Razumovsky Quartets.

Crisp and precise from the very start, they were stately and serene in the second movement, and animated in the intricate third, with the audience held rapt in silence. They were jaunty and sprightly in the finale, their passing of the music from instrument to instrument a delight.

Cheers and applause from the audience brought the players back for a sublime encore; the andante from Tchaikovsky’s first quartet where again they held the audience enthralled in the beauty of their music-making.

Stephen Huyshe-Shires

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