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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 5. 1965.

a very biting review of the Berkshire Quartet

a very biting review of the Berkshire Quartet

Perhaps this somewhat factitious political mumbo-jumbo that is rumbling through the University at the moment is able to exert a mysterious influence on apathy in other fields. Whatever the reason, at a lunch-time concert recently the Berkshire Quartet played to an almost full Memorial Theatre. The presence of such a crowd at a chamber Music Concert arranged by the University was quite exciting; the music they heard was less so. The Quartet played The Mozart Quartet in B flat (The Hunt) K.458, admittedly a lot less drably than they had played Mozart at their first concert in Wellington—but it was still something of an anti-climax, be mumbled through as efficiently as possible. There was still too much of the feeling that this was a demonstration, a 'typical classical quartet played beautifully'— we felt like a class not a concert-hall—there was still too much music without attack, without spirit; too much that was little more than a bland succession of notes.

The Bartok, of course, allowed for no such mechanical approach. The players were forced to produce music; unfortunately they did not always produce The Bartok Quartet No. 6. However much more alert they seemed, both the violinists and the violist suffered from some unforgiveable ambiguities of tone; there was too often little real tension between players, too often an entry was weak or impure in sound. The second violinist did not, we may be thankful, have to go through another traumatic experience such as he endured during the Ravel Quartet of the first concert—then he developed a physiological disability to play the right note—but he did seem to be suffering from the after-effects of this attack. The violinist was also not always to be relied upon, and the first violinist, although at times achieving virtuosity and perfect tone, every now and again lapsed into ragged playing of the more difficult passages. With the cellist, however, he did his best to hold the Quartet together.

The concert of March 31 was not then a good concert. The musicians, although they were playing great music, were, it seemed, tired and without vitality; and, perhaps because they were playing difficult music, were not always as reliable as a quartet of international reputation might be expected to be. One need only compare their Mozart with the rendition of the same work by the Amadeus Quartet, or their Bartok with performances by the Hungarian Quartet (who convinced there if nowhere else), to see that these visitors from the School of Music, Indiana University, were not as good as they might have been. It would not do to exaggerate: they played some very enjoyable movements, at times with a pleasing originality of interpretation; but equally it would not do to pretend that they were anything but disappointing in the final impression they left with us.—P.G.R.