Fitzwilliam String Quartet
Dream Factory, Warwick
Leamington Music’s Covid-defying series of concerts moved to the Dream Factory with this celebratory appearance by the Fitzwilliam quartet.
This recital represented an extra date to the concert held a few weeks back which was itself moved from earlier in the year – the shadow of having to cope with challenging and changing times lurks behind everything it seems.
Billed as an 80th birthday concert for Leamington Music director Richard Phillips, it was understandably a programme filled with treats.
Different venues offer different experiences when it comes to something as naturally intimate as chamber music. The Dream Factory’s black box design lends itself to setting the quartet in the round and, with social distancing necessitating a decent gap between pairs, the effect is a little like that of deck chairs round a bandstand in the park. The feeling is one more of an invitation to join a private moment rather than a staged performance and is all the more engaging for that.
Sound wise the effect is different from the marble and stone crispness of the Pump Rooms but if positioning and space did take a tiny bit of bite from the top end, the warmth of the acoustic paid rich dividends in the form of a booming, impressive cello sound.
Hugo Wolf’s bright and jaunty Italian Serenade got the party under way. Schubert’s A minor quartet was a rich gift very carefully unwrapped. Starting almost tentatively the music unfolded in a performance that managed to present very familiar music as if it was being brought into the light for the first time. It was a superb and very moving performance.
All birthday parties must have fun and games and the frivolities came here in the shape of Haydn’s Quartet in D (op 76 number 5) with brilliant uplifting fireworks sandwiching a slow movement of beauty and tranquility. A fitting way to send the partygoers into the night.
Leamington Music, and its previous guises and sister organisations down the years, have brought hundreds of these concerts to this area. Thanks to the dedication of the team under the director’s vision and verve, Leamington and Warwick have truly been punching far above their weight in the chamber music stakes for many years. It’s something many music lovers have become accustomed to, but it doesn’t just happen. And the fact that the quality and breadth of music on offer is still being produced in these absurd times is – along with so many other things – well worth raising a glass to in celebration and thanks.
The series continues to bring excellent music to the public whatever the demands of staying safe and responsible with more concerts in the coming months. Stellar trio Kosmos offer sounds from around the world on November 10 and the evergreen Mellstock Band offer a slightly new take on their traditional festive fayre with The Shepherd’s Calendar on November 24. Further Christmas concerts are also being planned and, with tickets for all these live treats selling fast, details can be found at leamingtonmusic.org .