Tim Homfray reports on the performance of Shostakovich and Weinberg at London’s Wigmore Hall on 19 March 2024 


Intensity personified from Quatuor Danel. Photo: Wigmore Hall Trust 2024

Quatuor Danel offered an intense Russian programme at this Wigmore Hall concert, starting with Shostakovich’s Fourth Quartet. The full sound of the opening gave way to intimate, delicate dialogues, and in the second-movement Andantino leader Marc Danel produced a great dramatic arc in his opening soliloquy over deadpan inner voices. The busy third movement was uneasy, propulsive and full of little surges, and in the finale the Jewish themes had an uneasy restlessness to them.

Mieczysław Weinberg’s Fourth Quartet followed, played with constant high energy and clarity of texture. There was vehemence in the macabre, unsettling Moderato assai, with an abundance of aggressive acciaccaturas and cellist Yovan Markovitch giving the high-lying lines a bleak beauty. In the third movement, with its curious marking of Largo marciale, second violinist Gilles Millet and violist Vlad Bogdanas were severe but expressive.

In Shostakovich’s Fifth Quartet the players combined insouciant charm with fierce urgency in the opening Allegretto and trance-like playing in the Andantino, its long lines seeming to be held in stasis as slow melodies came and went. The more genial moments were given with a light touch, which morphed into emphatic muscularity as the music demanded.