Tim Homfray hears the performance of Hayden and Debussy at London’s Wigmore Hall on 25 February 2024


Marmen Quartet. Photo: Marco Borggreve


The Marmen Quartet had a full house for its Sunday morning concert. The leader, Johannes Marmén, addressed the audience at the start, not to talk about the music but to thank Wigmore Hall for refurbishing the backstage bathroom! The players then gave a colourful performance of Haydn’s D major Quartet op.33 no.6, with many different characters in the first movement, the jaunty first subject neat and flowing, followed by passages of stillness and warmth. The Andante was a study in sustained lines; the musicians leant into the suspensions, and Marmén played his semiquaver passages with expressive freedom. The trio (though not called as such) of the Scherzo had touches of rubato and a wit that carried through to the finale, with colourful accents from the leader.

The first movement of Debussy’s String Quartet was brisk and purposeful, although Marmén, like so many, swallowed the triplet in the opening theme as if it were a throwaway ornament rather than the main motif of the whole work. The second movement tripped along happily, with cellist Sinéad O’Halloran physically expressive, smiling and looking as if she were the MC. The Andantino offered a spiritual meditation, with fine expressive playing from violist Bryony Gibson-Cornish and Marmén. O’Halloren was to the fore again in the finale, with her expressive solo leading to urgent conversations and a joyful ending.