Nagata String Quartet

Iffley Church

By Giles Woodforde

Young they may be, but three members of the Nagata String Quartet have worked together for a long time: Tetsuumi Nagata, John Doig (violins), and Ella Bundle (cello) studied together at the Yehudi Menuhin School. Violist Arthur Bedouelle, joined about 18 months ago. The Quartet was an apt choice to open Iffley Music Society's new season - Doig first had a miniature violin placed in his hands by the Oxfordshire County Music Service, and his family live in Iffley.

Given that the Nagata is far from being hastily pasted together, it wasn't surprising to hear it revealing a well integrated approach as it embarked on Haydn's Quartet in C (Op 74, No 1). The bucolic and robust first movement also revealed a romantic, rather than "original instruments" string tone. The contrasting second movement showed a clean, clear articulation and feeling for melody, while the third showed a strong sense of rhythm. The finale topped off an accomplished performance - this youthful sounding work suited the Quartet well.

Next something very different: Beethoven's Quartet in B flat, Op 18, No 6. This, John Doig informed us, had been described to him as "Beethoven having a mid-life crisis", and it certainly sounded like that, with the interplay between the instruments sometimes coming to an abrupt, edgy halt. The second movement gave the feeling of the composer wandering in a wilderness under a dark cloud, while the third suggested him emerging into the light again. It will be very interesting to hear the Nagata play this quartet again a few years down the road.

Finally, Schubert's Rosamunde Quartet in A minor. This begins with a much harder edge than the smooth Rosamunde incidental music, with the familiar main theme only appearing in the second movement. The Nagata paid full respect to the Quartet's heavy-hearted sorrows as it proceeded, emerging to end a most accomplished concert in sunshine.