REVIEW: Benyounes Quartet at Portsmouth Guildhall

Benyounes Quartet

Benyounes Quartet

Bo Ningen

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It is a bold set of young musicians that takes on the final work in Beethoven’s mighty series of string quartets, his Opus 135, but the all-female Benyounes Quartet’s courage was not misplaced.

From the strange viola opening to the abrupt ending, the players had the music’s measure in this first concert of the Portsmouth Chamber Music season.

Brief imprecisions were insignificant in the context of a masterpiece that goes as boldly as any space adventurer.

The slow movement had intense intimacy - and the finale’s clamour of repeated notes, leading to the pizzicato build-up to the conclusion, was enthralling.

The programme began with Schubert’s early E-flat quartet, played with teasing delicacy, with darker harmonies savoured but not laboured and fizzing energy in the finale.

In Dvorak’s Opus 51 quartet, the Czech’s use of dance rhythms was relished, with both melancholy and high spirits given due weight but merging magically into each other. And leader Zara Benyounes delivered an exquisite solo in the adagio, over throbbing accompaniment.

The series is promoted by the University of Portsmouth with Music in the Round, and the audience was again seated on stage, around the performers.

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