ONE of the significant changes in Lake District Summer Music’s organisation occurred last year when, in place of the long-running academy for students, a series of festival début concerts for young professional soloists and ensembles was instituted, writes CLIVE WALKLEY. These concerts, supported by the Patrons of LDSM, offer young musicians embarking on a performing career an opportunity to perform in a high level international festival, taking their place amongst more established performers; they also receive further advice and training in masterclasses with seasoned professionals.

In the first week of the festival, one of the groups giving their début performance was the Behn Quartet, formed in 2015. The quartet is made up of players from New Zealand, the Netherlands, England and Wales and currently holds a Chamber Music Fellowship at the Royal Academy of Music. The group won the first prize at the Orlando International Chamber Music Competition in 2017 and have the distinction of having given the première of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ final work at his Memorial Concert and live on BBC Radio 3. Since then they have recorded further works by Maxwell Davies and other 20th-century composers.

The concert at Carver Church, Windermere, began with Mozart’s String Quartet, No 6 in B flat major, K159, written when the composer was 16. The four players immediately entered into the spirit of this charming early work. Next came Ravel’s String Quartet in F major, one of the pinnacles of the string quartet repertoire. The playing was immaculate with no traces of insecurity and clearly the fruit of careful study. Ravel’s dynamic markings were scrupulously observed, textures were transparent, and the whole performance full of rhythmic energy.

The late Sir John Manduell’s immediately arresting Quartet, commissioned by the Welsh Arts Council in 1970, followed the Ravel. The strident harmonies, atonal melodic lines and turbulent textures did not make for easy listening, but, in the composer's own words, his intention was to create material, ‘in turns passionate and playful, switching abruptly between recurring fragments which progressively coalesce together.’ In contrast, the second movement was intended to be ‘a tranquil song at sunset.’ This was, indeed, a passionate performance which was met with an enthusiastic response from the large audience.

The final work in the programme was Dvorak’s evergreen 'American’ Quartet. There was energy, beauty and brilliance in the playing which again resulted in huge applause. Among the many young string quartets that have emerged in recent years, this group is clearly one to watch out for.

Lake District Summer Music 2018 runs until Friday, August 10.

Box office 01539-742620.