Iffley Music Society

The Fitzwilliam Quartet: Iffley Village Hall

By Giles Woodforde

The Fitzwilliam Quartet: Iffley Village Hall

The Fitzwilliam Quartet takes its choice of strings extremely seriously. So what’s unusual about that? I hear you say. Surely any string quartet as eminent as the Fitzwilliam would take great care over such a vital matter? But it’s not every quartet that obtains special, hand-made, gut strings to give an authentic sound to Bruckner’s quartets, as the Fitzwilliams did last year.

We weren’t told what strings the quartet (Lucy Russell and Colin Scobie, violins, Alan George, viola, and Heather Tuach, cello) were using for this Iffley Music Society recital, but Haydn’s Op 33 No 3 quartet revealed a ‘period’ flavour to the sound, allied to a strong feeling of warmth and fresh air. All of which exactly suited a work nicknamed The Bird — why just one bird I don’t know, for the Fitzwilliams suggested whole trees full of them, all singing merrily.

The instrumental tone colours were equally effective in Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A major, K414, which was designed by the composer to be playable as a piano quintet as well as with orchestra. The Fitzwilliams were joined by Anna Tilbrook. A sense of dialogue between the piano and the other instruments — crucial in these concertos — was expertly delivered, with Tilbrook effortlessly (or so it seemed) drawing plenty of tonal depth from an upright piano — Iffley hasn’t yet found a replacement for the concert grand lost when Russell Acott closed its hire service last year.

The second half was devoted to short novelty pieces,, all played in a delightfully humorous manner. Johann Strauss’s Tritsch-Tratsch Polka was the rustic opposite of the creamy version traditionally delivered by the Vienna Philharmonic on New Year’s Day, while a Shostakovich Polka was familiar territory for anyone who knows his Jazz Suites. Completing this light-hearted recital, and winding up a by all accounts very successful Fitzwilliams Iffley weekend residency, were two robustly quirky Percy Grainger numbers.

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