The Herald (Plymouth) January 26 2012

Atrium String Quartet at Sherwell Centre Plymouth

While Peninsula Arts never intended its Chamber Music Series to be a carbon copy of its predecessor, there was certainly something more than just deja vu when the Atrium String Quartet returned to the city after almost eight years.

Again here was superb playing from a top international ensemble, and a challenging, yet totally satisfying programme, which delighted the larger-than-usual audience at Plymouth University’s Sherwell Centre, clearly attracted by the potential on offer.

If Yuri Falik’s Eighth Quartet might have provided a slightly more effective opener than Shostakovich’s Seventh, there was no question that both performances were of the highest order, enhanced by each player’s abundantly rich tone, and the unmatched ensemble precision and dynamic balance.

Arensky’s A minor Quartet further emphasised these qualities, though now imbued with the more overt sense of feeling this quintessentially romantic work demands.

But arguably the evening’s highlight was an outstanding reading of Schubert’s G major Quartet, where all four instrumentalists combined to produce a reading of immense maturity, and where the vital and deceptively simple emotional balance between light and dark was so impeccably maintained, in a performance of impressive rhythmic accuracy.

Despite an early-morning start from the continent, and an already generous programme, to give the finale from Shostakovich’s First Quartet as an encore seemed a genuine gesture from an ensemble that came to delight and entertain, rather than merely to play.

PHILIP R BUTTALL

On-line version here

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