Tim Homfray hears a performance of Haydn and Beethoven at London’s Wigmore Hall on 11 December 2022

Chiaroscuro Quartet. Photo: Eva Vermandel

Chiaroscuro Quartet. Photo: Eva Vermandel

Chiaroscuro Quartet

Wigmore Hall 11 December 2022 

The Chiaroscuro Quartet’s gift is to make often familiar works sound new and different without ever resorting to artifice. In this concert the musicians played Haydn and Beethoven and both had about them a sense of revelation. Haydn’s G major Quartet op.77 no.1 was agile and light in the first movement, with moments of dramatic contrast. Leader Alina Ibragimova produced free-flowing semiquaver runs in the Adagio, which abounded in expressive rubato and dynamic flexibility. At times her playing was wondrous and vanishingly soft. The Menuetto skipped along, free-flowing, and the Trio was strong and vibrant. In the sparkling finale, light and full of energy, with some terrific dovetailing between the players, there were many witty moments, little teasing pauses asking what might come next.

After the mysterious, pregnant opening of Beethoven’s Third ‘Rasumovsky’ Quartet, Ibragimova was light in her little soliloquies, playing with just the upper third of the bow. In the second-movement Andante con moto quasi allegretto cellist Claire Thirion led from below with her eloquent pizzicatos; at a tempo nearer allegretto than andante this had a quiet, understated beauty. The Menuetto was suitably caressing, contrasting with a finale that seemed to sprint along, although it was not too fast, and amid the general lightness there was muscular playing to be found in the rising and falling solo passages.