Avalon String Quartet
May 28, 2003
Beethoven: String Quartet Op 18 No 2 in G Major
Berkeley, Lennox: String Quartet No 2
Mendelssohn: Op 44 No 2 in E Minor
By Michael White, for The Independent Newspaper, published on June 2, 2003
From the Independent Newspaper Bath Festival, Various venues, Bath 02 June 2003 Like country house hotels and dating agencies, the Bath Festival these days organises itself around themed weekends – filling the Georgian venues with the cutting edge of the contemporary avant-garde: world music, jazz, whatever – in discrete packages that may or may not be a good thing. Berkeley came to Marshfield in 1940 to join a makeshift artistic community that included William Glock and Dylan Thomas (heaven knows what they had in common) and apparently left the village in a state of shock. As if the war wasn’t enough. While there, he wrote his Second String Quartet: a hard-to-grasp, oblique, emotionally-cool score that attracts the epithets of feint praise standardly applied to Berkeley (“elegant”, “fastidious”, “well-crafted”) but is worth knowing for its small miracle of linear fluency in a first movement that grows through long stretches of involved counterpoint. The piece has fallen out of repertory (if it was ever in), so this was a rare hearing. And it was superbly done, in the presence of the composer’s family, by the American-based Avalon Quartet: four outstanding players unfamiliar to British audiences but not, I suspect, for much longer. On the same day as this Marshfield concert they made their Wigmore début (busy people). If you missed them, never fear. They’ll soon be back.