REVIEWS

BENYOUNES QUARTET with HÉLÈNE CLÉMENT viola string quintet

Wednesday 9 October 2019 at 8pm


Mozart               String Quintet no. 4 in G minor, K516

Bruckner          Adagio from String Quintet in F major

Dvořák              String Quintet in E flat major, op 97

Since forming at the Royal Northern College of Music in 2007, the Benyounes String Quartet have forged a reputation for fresh, vivid performances and interpretations of refinement and integrity. They have won prizes in both the Orlando International String Quartet Competition and the Sándor Végh Competition in Budapest. The Benyounes have performed at the Verbier, Aix-en-Provence, Aldeburgh and West Cork Chamber Music Festivals.

For this concert they will be joined by Hélène Clément, the prize-winning French violist of the Doric Quartet, to play first Mozart’s brooding, dark 4th String Quintet which escapes onto the sunny uplands only in the last movement. The Adagio from one of Bruckner’s few chamber works follows – full of his characteristic long melodies and rich chromatic harmonies. Finally the mood lifts for Dvořák’s last Quintet, composed in remote Spillville, Iowa, and, like all his American works, infused with his impressions of the indigenous music of America.

“The polish of the Benyounes Quartet was new... they already seem seasoned veterans with their tight ensemble and confident projection.” THE TIMES

REVIEW BY Chris Skidmore

Dark energy from an excellent quintet

 The new season of Ilkley Concert Club opened last Wednesday with a concert of string quintets. The Benyounes Quartet, who have forged a growing reputation over the last ten years, combined with Hélène Clément, violist of the Doric Quartet, to produce a wonderfully rich and dark string sound, full of energy and with crisp articulation. The additional tenor tones brought by the extra viola lend themselves to the melancholy and yearning that are characteristic of slow movements. This is particularly so of Bruckner, whose only chamber work, the string quintet in F, supplied the central work in the programme. The players interwove their long phrases beautifully, the themes emerging from the slowly shifting harmonies without disturbing the forward momentum of what is a truly symphonic work.

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Mozart, himself a violist, produced six string quintets and for the first work, the players gave us the fourth, in the ‘dark’ key of G minor. The lively first movement, a masterpiece of counterpoint, is followed by an eccentrically stressed minuet, and then by a muted adagio. The final movement starts with a second adagio which modulates back to the major and leads to a sunny and energetic rondo finale.  All these aspects were well brought out in this performance: with excellent balance between the parts and especially sensitive playing by Zara Benyounes in the first and last movements where her solo line was prominent but never dominating.

After the interval, Dvořák’s ‘American’ Quintet, a much more joyful and exuberant work, was given an equally splendid performance. At times in the scherzo, we really felt that we were at a ‘hoedown’, while the inherent melancholy of the folk-like themes in the first and third movements was given its proper character.  The rhythmic energy of the final rondo brought the performance to a rousing conclusion, rewarded by prolonged and appreciative applause. An excellent and satisfying start to the new season!

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