Henschel Quartet

Superb quartet cast their spell
Henschel Quartet, Ripon Cathedral


GERMANS are well-known for their precision, whether it be in the field of engineering or the arts. Last Monday evening four musicians gave a recital in Ripon Cathedral demonstrating an impressive technique of impeccable string playing. The stunning Henschel Quartet ? a German family affair (brothers Christoph and Markus, along with elder sister Monika Henschel, and cellist Mathias Beyer-Karlshoj) ? performed works by Françaix, Mozart, Stravinsky and Brahms in a gripping display of some of the best string quartet repertoire.

The intimacy between the players and their communicative looks towards each other ensured accurate playing. Those gathered felt they could have been eavesdropping on the family Henschel at home, as, under the two standard lamps on the stage, the appreciative audience listened and watched the ease in which these masters in their field performed. This will go down as one of the highlights of the Cathedral Concert Society?s recital series this season; the crisp playing captivated the audience.

During the silences the magic continued, not a sound could be heard, so riveting and spellbinding was the performance. The lightness and pizzicato in the opening of Françaix?s String Quartet in G minor showed unforced freshness and vitality, while at the same time not losing any expressiveness. Enchanting was the word of the night as the quartet moved on to Mozart?s String Quartet in D minor. After the interval the audience was treated to Stravinksy?s interesting and short Three Pieces for String Quartet in which the Henschels gave a finely carved and thoughtful performance radiating delight and brilliance. The final work was Brahms? String Quartet in C minor and the spell, which the Henschels cast over their audience at the beginning, continued its hold.

Immaculate technique, clean, crisp, precise musicianship oozed from the players as they continued the lyrical flow and virtuosity. Even the delicate movements from all four of the pieces highlighted unanimity in the phrasing. The way the soloists passed their musical themes from the resonant cello to the viola and then to the violins was exquisite. For me, and I am sure for everyone present, this was quite simply glorious chamber music at its finest.

Andrew Palmer

10 November 2006