A packed house heard the Notos Piano Quartet give a shining performance of a reconstructed Mozart fragment, an early masterpiece by Walton, and the magnificent Brahms Opus 26.
The players come from Germany and have trained in several cities across Europe, notably Madrid, Manchester and Frankfurt. The Alban Berg Quartet has had the strongest influence on their development and this shows in their impeccable intonation and incisive rhythm. Their sense of balance and ensemble is exemplary and this gives their phrasing and harmonic progression a clarity which reveals every detail of the composition.
Their curtain–raiser was an unfinished movement by Mozart of a triple ’concerto’ for violin, viola, cello and orchestra in which the orchestral part has been arranged for the piano. The work was completed by Philip Wilby and a cadenza added by David Paul Graham, two British composers. The result is a useful addition to the piano quartet repertoire but it lacks the genius of Mozart.
The other piece in the first half was a formidable piano quartet in D minor by an all–British composer, William Walton. Although an early work, it already shows how mature Walton had become at the age of twenty. The Notos gave it a vigorous and energetic rendition, making light of the difficult rhythms and high passage work in the strings. We heard a tender slow movement, and some majestic counterpoint, but each of the four movements had its own colour.
The main work in the programme was Brahms’ Opus 26 Piano Quartet in A major. The Notos excelled in this pillar of the piano quartet repertoire. Indeed in 2013, they won the Special Prize for the Best Brahms Interpretation at the Torino competition. Such was their unanimity of phrasing that one could not tell who was leading the ensemble – and that is how it should be; each player complementing the other and none seeking the limelight.