The second concert in the Birmingham Chamber Music Society’s new season displayed an extremely insightful piece of programming. It began with Samuel Barber’s string quartet, a perplexing work which frames the famed material for his Adagio for Strings with angular, dissonant outer movements, starkly contrasting the Adagio’s long-breathed melodies.
This structural model was then extrapolated and cleverly applied to the whole programme. On its own, the Barber was self contained. But within the concert, it and Shostakovich’s third quartet functioned as progressive bookends, perfectly highlighting the contrast of Mozart’s D minor quartet, placed between them.
Unfortunately, though, the Boult Quartet, all Junior Fellows of the Conservatoire, did not quite make the most of the programme’s potential. First Violin, Christopher Rutland, did add a layer of gloss to the Mozart with some fine passagework, and an effective ghostly atmosphere was achieved in the Shostakovich. But, some of the programme’s more awkward melodic shapes betrayed problematic intonation issues, and, at times, the group seemed to lack the cohesion that the genre demands.
This was compounded, somewhat, by a spotlight stealing turn by the Lin Quartet, whose immediately arresting presence and mature tones were astonishing, given their Junior Conservatoire status.