Wednesday 8 March 2023 8pm

Haydn                 String Quartet in E flat major, op 33 no. 2 ‘The Joke’

Fauré                   String Quartet in E minor, op 121

Mendelssohn     String Quartet in E flat major, op 44 no. 3

The Consone Quartet were the first period instrument quartet to become BBC New Generation Artists in 2019. Formed at the Royal College of Music they launched their professional career in 2015, specialising in classical and early romantic repertoire. They have been enthusiastically received and won plaudits for their ‘perfect intonation, tremendous attack and impeccable historical style’ [Sir Roger Norrington].

For their first visit to Ilkley they combine their core repertoire with an unique 20th-century quartet. We begin with one of Haydn’s ‘Russian’ quartets which so impressed Mozart and finish with the last of Mendelssohn’s op 44 quartets which hark back to those earlier classical models, without abandoning his characteristic exuberance. Fauré’s late flowering string quartet—his only chamber work without a piano—explores a completely different sound world: it is more abstract but nevertheless has a beauty all its own. Hearing it on instruments with gut strings will be like stepping back 100 years!

REVIEW BY Chris Skidmore

Outstanding string playing in a varied repertoire

The Consone Quartet presented a wide-ranging programme at last Wednesday’s Ilkley Concert Club concert – Haydn was followed by Fauré and Mendelssohn. This would not be remarkable but for the fact that the Consone play on gut strings with classical bows and at a lower pitch than concertgoers are normally used to. Historically informed performances are usual for baroque and early classical works but it is also immensely revealing to hear music from later eras as contemporaries would have heard them.

The biggest surprise of the Consone’s approach is the wide variety of tone worlds that they can conjure out of their instruments. Their Haydn – op 33 no.2 in E flat major – was bright and open, led with verve by the sparkling nimble fingers of first violinist, Agata Daraskaite, with a sense of fun which readily epitomized the nickname of this quartet – the Joke. Indeed when we reached the musical joke – a fragmented ending full of pauses which makes you wonder where the end is – it actually brought forth smiles and even some laughter!

In contrast, Fauré’s only string quartet received a meditative performance that was eerily atmospheric with shifting unresolved harmonies and a muted tonal world. Here, as in the largo of the Haydn, the dark sound of Elitsa Bogdanova’s viola came to the fore. In Mendelssohn’s E flat major string quartet which followed the interval there were further contrasts, with a fuller richer tone which matched the romantic harmonic world. There was again exuberant energy in both scherzo and finale in which Magdalena Loth Hill’s violin contrasted well with the agility of her partner violinist. Throughout George Ross, playing with his cello clasped between his legs, grounded the sound with exemplary articulation and resonant tone.

In fact it is invidious to pick out individuals in this quartet, who play together like members of a family, constantly sharing the pleasure in their musicianship, exchanging eye contact and drawing us into their enjoyment. This was a truly satisfying musical experience!