DIVERTIMENTI STRING QUINTET
FRIDAY 23rd MARCH 2012
SCHUBERTIAN PERFECTION AT MUSIC NAIRN
A Music Nairn audience were recently privileged to hear a performance by Divertimenti of Schubert's String Quintet in C major that was close to perfection in every sense. The audience was totally enthralled with the intensity of the music and the ensemble's commitment, and apart from the music itself not a sound was to be heard for an hour.
Divertimenti had started their concert with a rarely heard short piece by the Swiss composer Frank Martin – his "Pavane Couleur du Temps". The music is simple and wistful, and reminiscent of Vaughan Williams. What was immediately apparent was the perfect balance between the instruments in the Quintet, and the extra depth and richness of sound that the second cello gives to the more frequently heard sound of the string quartet. Indeed, as was explained, the addition of a second cello brings the extra dimension of a cello line free from having to provide the supporting bass line. As the concert progressed, it was clear that the players were exercising considerable skill in maintaining a perfectly balanced sound. The addition of a doubled instrument brings the challenge that the inherent balance in the triad chord is disturbed, because when the third or the fifth is doubled, the players have in turn to adjust their relative volumes to avoid distorting the intended balance in the chord. Furthermore, the first violin advised that the Stradivarius (belonging to the Halle Orchestra) he plays has the power to reach the outmost reaches of the largest concert hall, and yet in the very close acoustic of Nairn's Community & Arts Centre this was never obvious – the blend was perfect.
After the Martin, Divertimenti played Glazunov's String Quintet. The work is not often heard, but it was written by a Russian dedicated to melody and the classical tradition, and surely deserves to be played more often. The second movement is unusual in its persistent use of pizzicato, doubtless influenced by Tchaikovsky.
And so, after the interval, to the Schubert, and the pleasing coincidence that Radio 3 had only hours previously launched its week devoted to the composer. The Quintet is arguably one of Schubert's greatest works, and has one of the most exquisite slow movements in the chamber music repertoire – a continuous sense of suspended spiritual animation. This is music where there is no hiding place for any of the players, and every single note has to be perfectly positioned. The precision in balance, particularly in the pp passages was truly impressive. Divertimenti rely on listening to each other to achieve perfect cohesion, rather than the more obvious head or body movements, which is a skill that only comes with maturity and having played together for so long.
At the conclusion of the concert, both Divertimenti and their audience were exhausted by the sheer intensity of the music and its delivery. The ovation was one of the longest a Music Nairn audience has given, and deservedly so. The reviewer of Music Nairn's previous concert said that Music Nairn had raised the bar to a very high level, and Divertimenti certainly reached it.
Music Nairn has more Schubert to offer in its new season, notably in April Michael Lunts with an evening of music, drama and song, and in July the Scottish Ensemble with 'The Trout'.