Review: Foot-tapping, trickery and smiles from talented quartet in Leamington

The Kodaly Quartet
The Kodaly Quartet

Clive Peacock reviews the Kodály Quartet at the Pump Room, Leamington

November two years ago, Kodály made their first visit to Leamington; this year they brought the first half of the International Quartet Series to a close with a remarkable Haydn, glorious Dohnanyi and a somewhat underwhelming Schumann quartet. With the Takács and Kodaly playing to full houses in Leamington in the same month, Leamington Music’s work continues to be one of the best kept secrets of the UK’s music making successes.

In 2015 Kodály opened with Haydn’s ‘Sunrise’, No 4 of Opus 76. This year they chose the composer’s first of the “Tost” Quartets, No 1 of Opus 54. Immediately, the brilliant precision of the four players registers and their simple mannerisms noticed; firstly, the tapping of the feet in unison at the start of the work accelerating, and, secondly, viola player Fejérvári smile set to melt many a heart; a man blessed with presence, musical instinct and nous. Humour and poetry abound in the calmness of the second movement; all this is long forgotten by the time the lively finale arrives with an example of Haydn’s thematic trickery.

Best remembered for his works for children, Erno Dohnanyi was a product of the Budapest Academy. Of his three string quartets, No 2 in D flat is billed as one of, if not the greatest post Brahms Romantic quartets. The Leamington ful -house response was entirely positive and fascinated by the change of quartet leadership for this work. Apparently, this is a manoeuvre frequently practised by the quartet; just another attractive mannerism. Like Haydn, Dohnanyi produces his own trickery to end the last movement – the lead violin finishes his efforts leaving those remaining continuing their pizzicato playing.

* The concert took place on November 30. See www.leamingtonmusic.org for details of future Leamington Music concerts.