Fine Arts Quartet, Kendal Parish Church

The first string quartet recital in this year’s Lake District Summer Music festival was given by the distinguished Fine Arts String Quartet making the ensemble’s first visit to the festival. The quartet has a distinguished record, having recorded more than 200 works, many of which have won prestigious awards.

Listening to the performances at Kendal Parish Church, it was not difficult to account for this success. The playing of all four players is technically brilliant; but, more than this, they display a deep understanding of the music and communicate this to their audience.

The concert opened with a late Haydn Quartet, Op77 No 2. The four players clearly revelled in the intricate counterpoint and the humorous touches, so much part of the composer’s mature works.

Next in the programme came the Polish composer Krysztof Penderecki’s third string quartet, written in a single movement with strongly defined subsections. On first hearing, this was a very appealing work with strong ideas and interesting textures; nor did it lack melody unlike as some of the composer’s earlier works.

Schubert’s D minor string quartet - known as Death and the Maiden - completed the programme. The players got to the emotional heart of the work. The opening was notable for its energy and rhythmic drive; the slow movement opening - making reference to the Schubert song which gave the work its popular title - was magical in effect, so beautifully phrased with a wide range of tone colours and dynamic contrasts. The last movement was again remarkable for its energy, rhythmic drive and forward momentum.

This was string quartet playing at it finest and left one with a desire to hear this fine quartet again.

Clive Walkley