It promised to be a fabulous programme from Bromsgrove Concerts: three intriguing 20th-century works for string quartet played by the immensely talented young Brodowski Quartet, and the performances were indeed wonderful.
This was a menu linked by references, beginning with Alfred Schnittke’s Third Quartet, resourcefully recalling both Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge and the DSCH monogram of Dmitri Shostakovich. Schnittke also recalls ancient cadences, chorale-textures (a nod to Berg?) and Mendelssohnian lyricism.
It might appear a mess, but it came over mighty well.
As did the kaleidoscopic Five Pieces by holocaust victim Erwin Schulhoff, drawing upon all kinds of musical templates with an impressive command of string quartet resources.
Both works were delivered with sympathetic authority and fascinating mutual empathy by the players (what a committed and capable cellist they have!), as was the autobiographical Quartet no.8 by Shostakovich.
The DSCH motif was again to the fore, as were other self-quotations as the composer externalised his anguish at the wanton destruction of Dresden. The Brodowskis delivered it with huge concentration and commitment.
So what spoiled the evening?
Presenter Terry Barfoot’s pre-performance dissection of the Shostakovich was engaged and informed, but went on far too long, stealing the thunder of the actual music itself, and possibly patronising Bromsgrove’s discerning audience. It may have ticked all the trendy funding-application boxes, but it didn’t work.
And a footling Hindemith encore came as a crass intrusion after the harrowing Shostakovich, surely one of the masterpieces of the entire quartet repertoire.
Rating * * *