Tim Homfray hears the perforamnce of Mozart and Ravel at London’s Wigmore Hall on 14 April 2024 


Novus Quartet. Photo: courtesy Novus Quartet

In this Sunday-morning concert the Novus Quartet performed Mozart’s E flat major Quartet K428 with great contrasts of delicacy, rich tone and constant dynamic variation. In the steady-paced second movement the musicians found further contrasts: between vibrato-free fragility and full, warm sound, the dynamics in constant flux, and with little hiatuses at the cadences. After the forthright optimism of the Menuetto the Trio occupied a very different, more melancholy landscape. The finale scurried along on a tide of energy and stabbing accents.

The Ravel quartet, for which the violinists swapped places, was full of shifting moods and colours, with a wealth of scintillating details, a mix of precision and expressive rubato. Between the vivid, busy outer sections of the second-movement Assez vif, there was gossamer lightness in the central Lent. The playing in the third movement was exquisite, with exceptional matching of tone and immaculate ensemble. The final few bars unfolded as a profound meditation, from which the finale exploded in a kind of emotional turmoil, with its many subtle shifts of tempo woven into a scintillating musical story.