Review: Chichester Chamber Concerts series – Castalian Quartet

Castalian Quartet at Chichester Chamber Concerts 5th October 2023

A full-house at Chichester Assembly Rooms proved an attentive and appreciative audience for an exciting evening of chamber music from the Castalian Quartet:  Mozart, Mark-Anthony Turnage and (late) Beethoven.  

The Turnage piece – his sixth string quartet – was brand new, having been premiered by the Castalian this year at the Edinburgh Festival.  On the face of it, it might have been daunting.  But its accessibility and the excellent programme notes by Dr David Billinge provided a richly satisfying experience.  The work is built around the story of  George Bridgetower the original dedicatee and first performer of Beethoven’s monumental Op 47 violin sonata. 

Shortly after its premiere Beethoven decided to switch the dedication to the aristocratic violinist Rudolph Kreutzer whose name it now bears.  The Turnage piece’s soloistic, bravura opening for the first violin and the subsequent subdued muted ruminations brought out the best in the Castalian under their temporary leader Benjamin Gilmore. 

Bravura excitement and contrasting rumination were also present in spades in the final movement of the evening – Beethoven’s Great (“Grosse”) Fugue, the original last movement to his Op 130 quartet.  This movement still sounds contemporary after almost 200 years and is a substantial technical challenge to even the most capable of quartets. 

The Castalian rose to it magnificently  – Daniel Roberts deserving a special round of applause for projecting so well Beethoven’s almost unplayable second-violin part.  We look to yet more wonderful concerts in Chichester.

Chris Darwin

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