Edwrd Bhesania heads for London’s Kings Place on 10 December 2023 for a recital featuring Britten and Bridge


Impressive focus from the Gildas Quartet. Photo: Matthew Johnson

This Surround Sound Session by the Gildas Quartet – part of Kings Place’s Sound Unwrapped series – may not have featured the hall’s d&b Soundscape speaker array, but the principle is the same, with the audience placed in some way at the centre of the experience.

Britten’s String Quartet no.3 was the focus of the hour-long performance, following the Three Idylls by Britten’s teacher Frank Bridge and the Waltz from Britten’s Three Divertimenti. The Gildas played the quartet from memory, the players rotating positions between movements around the four corners of the audience’s square seating formation. The players also explored the dimensions outside, just inside and at the focal centre of the square. Dimmed lighting and pre-show audio of the bells from St Mark’s Venice (referencing the bell-like passacaglia of the final movement, titled ‘La Serenissima’) added to the atmosphere.

Spoken introductions are always a welcome barrier-breaker but here, even with each of the players taking turns, this felt a little stilted and conventional: perhaps it needed a more dramatic treatment.

The spatialisation helped tease apart the strands of the quartet’s first movement (‘Duets’) and intensified the isolation of the third (‘Solo’), whose fragile, bleak beauty was amply conveyed by fearless first violinist Tom Aldren. And performing the work from memory entrenched its poignancy and intensity.