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Jersey Review

Jersey Arts Centre 9 June 2004

SENSE AND SENSITIVITY

Rod McLoughlin enjoys ‘the greatest concert’ he has heard at the Arts Centre (abridged)

Listening to the Kopelman Quartet reminded me many years ago of Tatyana Nikolaeva playing Shostakovich at the Edinburgh Festival, having performed here in Jersey a couple of months before.  Here there was polite applause; in Edinburgh, people stood and wept tears of unalloyed emotion!

Such a response would have been perfectly in order last night. I wouldn’t argue with a fellow member of the audience who thought this the greatest concert he’d ever heard at the Arts Centre.  Certainly it was that kind of experience that takes you beyond mere pleasure to something altogether deeper.   The programme, which also offered Prokofiev’s too rarely-performed second quartet and Schubert’s E Flat Quartet, D.87, was beautifully balanced and the playing was quite remarkable.

From the cliché drawer you could pull out any of the obvious comments about four instrumentalists playing as one, or having a perfect sense of ensemble or producing an extraordinary sense of concentration but such comments don’t begin to get to the heart of it.

Here there was...  total mastery not just of technical challenges but of musical artistry - of balancing parts, of dialogue between players and above all else of tonal richness.

...the Kopelman Quartet produced an extraordinary refinement of sound allied to an intelligence that gave each note full weight and meaning.

You smiled with the players at the second subject in the opening movement of the Schubert, not just because it was so beautifully phrased but because there was a real sense of bringing the composer’s musical ideas to life.  And at the end of the Shostakovich, you held your breath with them, hardly daring to move in your seat lest you broke the spell.

This was a performance which, in the literal sense, had something magical about it - you marvelled at what was happening.

Individually the quartet members have impeccable credentials. Many people will own recordings of the Borodin Quartet led by Mikhail Kopelman, while Boris Kuschnir founded the Moscow Quartet with the viola player Igor Sulyga, and they both worked with Shostakovich personally on some of the quartets.  Cellist Mikhail Milman was a principal with the Moscow Virtuosi.

You could hardly ask for a more impressive pedigree than this but there was no sense of over-familiarity in the approach. It was a privilege to hear artists of this sensitivity.

The Jersey Evening Post