Coull Quartet provide strongest of festival starts - The Leamington Observer

Coull Quartet provide strongest of festival starts

FESTIVALS always benefit from a strong start and it would be hard to imagine a stronger start than this fine programme delivered by the Coull Quartet.

The last eighteen months have been tough for performing musicians and for those who like their music live. It has to be said that thanks to Leamington Music, and others, we’ve fared better than most but the return to a fuller-length evening in front of a larger audience less obviously spaced was another welcome step on the path back to a treasured normality.

As artfully curated as you’d expect, this weekend of recitals has as its central theme the music of the often overlooked son of Leamington, composer Robert Simpson. Probably best known for his symphonic output, it’s the chamber music, and quartets in particular, that act as the would-be jewels in many fine settings over the course of the festival.

The Quintet No 1 offered this evening saw the Coull Quartet slightly altered and augmented but undiminished when it came to precision and clarity. A single movement of two halves, the piece is driven along by a constant pulse which serves almost as a pace-setter for a walk which begins in calm serenity before becoming more insistent and frenzied.

Beautifully handled with the focus being passed one-by-one across the players, the walk ends with its highlight, a haunting, poignant last few minutes before simply evaporating. I’m sure I was not alone in making a mental note to walk in Simpson’s footsteps a lot more in future.

Preceded by Schubert’s evergreen Quartettsatz in C minor, the pairing provided a hugely thoughtful combination, a lovely comparison in rhythm and bite.

If the purpose of Simpson’s journey was to get us somewhere then the destination of Beethoven’s comparatively rarer Quintet in C was worth every step. Beethoven is always good, but it takes a performance of this quality sometimes to remind us how good. Four perfectly rendered movements filled with crispness and a lyrical quality that takes expertise and execution, it was a fabulous, uplifting start to what should be a memorable weekend.

Full details of the weekend festival and many future recitals in the area can be found at


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