Their interpretations were deeply thought through and their technical control was total. Their use of vibrato was masterly. In the Haydn Quartet Op 20 No. 4 occasional key notes were stressed by its subtle use, otherwise it was absent, yet the raw scrawny vibrato-less tone that some ‘period’ groups produce was totally avoided. In the second movement of the Schubert ‘Death and the Maiden’ Quartet the contrast between the vibrato-less theme and the ensuing variations where it was sometimes richly deployed was telling.
In the scherzo of the Korngold Quartet no.3 the virtuosity of the playing, especially the bowing and the powerful pizzicati was remarkable. The clever use of portamento (slides between notes) in the trio which recycles music from a film score, took us straight back to Hollywood. Throughout the quiet playing was especially noteworthy, the sound sometimes approaching inaudibility with magical effect. Equally telling where bold forceful effects were required they gave their all.
This was some of the most musically colourful playing I’ve heard from a string quartet. But all this technical excellence would be as nothing if the imagination and creative insight into what the music was about was lacking, but it was there abundantly. Their interpretations took such exciting risks; as a keen-eared audience member said to me afterwards ‘you have to be young to be that brave’.