They have thrilled us before in the ideal acoustic of Stockbridge Town Hall. Remarkably, three years on, the make-up of this superbly gifted youthful group has seen only one change, the viola player. Remarkable, because by now such very young players might have disbanded their group to forge individual careers. They have to an extent. One of them is in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and another in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, with the others well established as freelance professionals. However they plan to assemble as The Delmege Quartet whenever possible.
Bravo. All to our benefit. They called their programme String Quartet Mastenruorks, three works performed with the panache you’d hear normally from long established big name international chamber groups. The first, Haydn’s Opus 76, teases with changes of key and moods. The Delmege moved deftly from one to another. Mozart had come and gone when the composer wrote this in his late sixties, and the second movement has resonances of the Jupiter Symphony. How this quartet enjoyed playing the third movement’s playful folk dance, Ldndler style, first violin accompanied by sensitive pizzicatos from the rest.
Talking of pizzicato, in marked contrast, so aggressively did the players pluck their strings in the next work’s second movement, they had to retune before moving on. This was Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor Opus 10, his only quartet, written a hundred years later when he was about thirty one. Easy to see why Turner was his favourite artist. Vivid atmospheric imagery abounds, even filmic, especially in the third movement. This work’s unmelodic technical
writing places great demands on the musicians, so skilfully interpreted for us here. How the first performance in 1871 was played by heart is hard to imagine.
When the same age as Debussy, Tchaikovsky wrote his String Quartet No 1 Opus 11. ln three of the four movements, rhythms and cross-rhythms abound. However it’s the third that brought tears to Tolstoy’s eyes when played at a tribute concert for him, and these days the movement for which this quartet is best remembered. Tchaikovsky arranged it for cello and string orchestra later as a stand alone piece. lts main theme is melancholy, evocative, touched with sadness and nostalgia, inspired by a folk song the composer heard sung by a painter at his sister’s house. lt was played beautifully by first violinist Thomas Aldren, with gentle accompaniment from his colleagues violinist Kirsty Lovie, cellist Joseph Fisher and cellist Hannah lnnes.
Separate professional lives they may have now, but the fresh musical sixth sense that binds these players as the Delmege remains. Long may this last.