SASRA review by Jane Holland

THE Rivoli String Quartet entertained over 60 people in the Market Hall at the beginning of March.

Amelia Jones and Helen Tonge (violins), Alexandra Wakeling (viola) and Helen Downham (cello) joined forces in 1999 to form the quartet.

Mutual understanding development since then was evident as they entered the Hall and launched straight into String Quartet in F Major by Mozart. Vibrato, although present throughout, on occasion helped the instruments to sing.

The excellent execution of phrasing brought the polyphonic texture of the first movement to life but throughout the piece, dynamics and a subtle balance between the instruments enhanced the performance.

Prior to the next piece, we were told a little background about the composer to provide a context for the music we were about to hear. Erwin Schulhoff was an early 20th century Jew from Czechoslovakia, living in Germany.

He was involved with experimental music, such as using quarter tones and wrote a piece consisting of rests long before John Cage composed his 4’33”.

Russian Communism influenced him and his later work.

He died of TB in a German concentration camp during 1942.

We were treated to Schulhoff’s String Quartet No 1, written during the 1920s. His Czech background was particularly evident in the style of the third movement.

Throughout the four movements we were treated to a wide range of techniques, from pizzicato to a selection of sounds produced by the bow attacking the string in different ways, for example, bouncing or scrapping.

At some points mutes were attached to the bridges of the instruments, affecting both the volume and timbre of the sound produced. Consequently some sections gave the impression that they could have come from a science fiction film.

The final movement ended with a cello ‘tick-tock’ motif which became more intermittent and stopped as the piece died out.

The audience reacted by giving the ending space before bursting into applause.

Overall the quartet gave a very accomplished performance of a complex piece, which people found accessible, perhaps due its suitability for live performance: it was visual as well as aural.

After refreshments, provided by the Cumbria-Rungwe Community Link, we were treated to a performance of Franz Schubert’s String Quartet in D Minor, Death and the Maiden. Again the sensitive execution of phrasing and accurate rests enhanced the performance of this well-known piece.

However, a little more vocal interaction with the audience might have added an extra sparkle to the concert.
Alexandra smiled often enough to convey her enjoyment. In all it was a very enjoyable evening for the SASRA Music & Arts group.

  • The AGM is on Friday 6th May at 7.30pm in the Market Hall Supper Room, when the Croasdale Recorder Players are due to provide entertainment.