THE ENDELLION STRING QUARTET AT WEST ROAD
How strenuous is the life of a musician? Where do they get their energy? The Endellion String Quartet, Cambridge’s very own international ensemble, gallivant from country to country and across Britain without pausing for breathe. Last night they had left Leeds, stayed in Newark, rehearsed for ‘only’ four hours and skidded up at West Road to perform a perfectly executed trio of pieces, exquisitely expressed and delicately delivered. It was well worth their immense effort. The Endellions are in one departing punter’s phrase ‘ reliably brilliant’ and their concerts never less than delightful. Yet audience murmurings and musings as they emptied the auditorium at the end of the concert, confirmed that Beethoven’s early quartet, Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 8 in E and the Brahms sextet made a trinity of sounds so enlivening, it had to rank among the best concerts ever.
Cellist David Waterman gave the audience a super-compressed account of the first of the two epic composers. Brahms and Dvorak were friends apparently (it’s hard to imagine Beethoven with any friends at all) and the two musical geniuses admired each other’s work – Dvorak in awe of Brahms’ mastery of scale and structure and Brahms intrigued by the Czech composer’s melodic mastery, his folk-derived heart-warming cadences taken from his homeland’s heritage. And whilst the Brahms music evoked a serene calm in its effortless certainty, creating a kind of blissed-out state in the listener, Dvorak was all innovation, warmth and beauty of tone. Some of the passages are simply gorgeous. Yet this is a work of massive complexity, hard to play, little rendered in concert halls and demanding on the ensemble. The Endellions sailed through it although the serenity probably resembles the swan, gliding above with grace whilst the legs are going like the clappers below the water. To achieve the effect of heart- gladdening joy Dvorak promotes, takes an awful lot of concentrated intellectual and physical strength, the less apparent, and the harder it must be.
The Brahms piece was indeed magnificent. The veteran performers had included two students, as is their wont towards the end of the season, but they have never featured two sisters before. Emma and Joy Lisney are exceptionally adept musicians. Joy has opened her own recital series in London’s St John’s Smith Square, performed her own compositions and set up the seraphim Chamber Orchestra. She plays a venerable – and priceless Seraphin violincello – with poise and unflappability – quite an asset when tackling Brahms complex work written for his ex-fiancé Agathe von Siebold– either our of chagrin or remorse we don’t know. Her name is spelled out in a musical rebus throughout the work AGABH (this now moving into the stratosphere for your reviewer) but the result is a soothing lovely piece with outbursts of passion and pain stilled eventually by a final sequence of decisive chords.
It was a great concert. Once accustomed to the usual quartet each added instrument makes a massive impact on the listener so that two full participant players give the illusion of a mini-orchestra at work – which is pretty much what it is. On the violin was Joy’s sister Emma, another scion of this super-musical family, the father a well-known pianist and his daughters clearly heading for the upper slopes of musical achievement. It is part of the Endellions characteristic generosity that they make room in packed schedule, to rehearse and perform with relative newcomers to the art.
Yet it is unsurprising. Their energy is as boundless as is their delight in the remarkable music they play, so to add a student component into an international run of world famous concert hall appearances is part of the powerhouse of performance that has always been the Endellion String Quartet.