This quartet is going places....

I've been lucky enough to hear many great string quartets live over the last couple of years, including world class ensembles such as the Lindsays and Borodins. But right up there with the best was last night's stunning performance by the Sacconi Quartet (above) at the Halesworth Arts Festival.

This young British quartet formed when they were students at the Royal College of Music in London in 2001, and have since gone on to win a slew of prestigous awards including the Trondheim and Bordeaux International String Quartet Competitions, and this year's Royal Overseas League chamber music competition. They are committed to music education, and have a programme of recitals in London schools in collaboration with the Cavatina Chamber Music Trust. (I
ncidentally, their name comes from the outstanding twentieth-century Italian violin maker and restorer Simone Sacconi, whose book "The Secrets of Stradivari" is considered an indispensable reference work for violin makers.)

I wrote about last year's Festival performance by the Sacconi which included the gorgeous Elgar Quartet. This year their programme took them into the mainstream repertoire, and their playing just seems to get better and better. The intelligently planned programme traced the development of the string quartet format from Haydn, through Mozart to Schubert. The quartet's sheer technique and musicianship shone through in the fugue in the finale of the Mozart 'Haydn' Quartet in G major (K387), but it was in the finale of Schubert's Death and the Maiden that the young players' combination of precision and exhiliration really took the performance to the heights of greatness. Not a hint of the 'autopilot' performances that we see with increasing frequency from the 'Norwich today, Naples tomorrow' big name quartets. This was spontaneous music-making with a lot of risk taking, and it was inspirational. Particular praise for the beautifully rounded, but not overstated, cello tone of Cara Berridge. This quartet is going places, watch out for them.

The wonderful sound of the quartet as a whole was complimented by the acoustics of The Cut arts centre in the lovely little market town of Halesworth (above) in Suffolk. The newly constructed 220 seat audorium is just 12 miles north of Snape, and follows its illustrious predecessor by being converted from an old maltings. The fortuitous combination of brick construction and a low development budget has left the surfaces of the auditorium in natural materials, producing a wonderfully warm, but clear, string tone. The lively little arts centre also includes a dance and small-performance studio, workshop space, and a concourse gallery (below) with café-bar.

The Halesworth Festival really shows what can be done for the performing arts in a town with a population of just 6000. This week we will have had the delights of...
Tuesday - World Music - traditional music and dance from Ethiopia
Friday -
Sacconi Quartet
Saturday - Festival performance of Bach B minor Mass in Blythburgh Church of Britten fame
Sunday - closing concert by the
National Youth Jazz Orchestra
Beat that for live music-making in a local community!

Picture credits:
Quartet -
Gallery -
The Cut
Halesworth - Town web site

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