Piatti String Quartet


Impossible to resist opening this review by quoting the words of quartet leader Nathaniel Anderson Frank: “There’s quite a lot of good wood on this platform tonight!” – referring, of course, not to the doubtless high quality of the floorboards in St Andrew’s Hall but to the impressive vintage pedigree of the instruments in the hands of the players. Four young musicians, at least three valuable and fine old fiddles, and a programme of music from the intervening centuries provided the ingredients for a concert last Wednesday that must surely figure as one of the best in recent SMS years.

The Piatti Quartet is well-established both at home in the UK and abroad, and although of relatively recent formation is a group already well past the “up-and-coming” stage. On this showing they have well and truly arrived, and are deserving of serious attention.

The only string quartet to feature in the current SMS season, they presented a programme of appropriately serious weight and substance: Haydn (op 20, no2), Britten (three Divertimenti), Brahms (op 51, no 2) and the First String Quartet of Joseph Phibbs, commissioned by the Piatti Quartet and recorded by them only last year. Not surprising, therefore, that this last piece received such a convincing performance; let’s hope that it earns a regular place in the repertoire not only of this group but of others too, as it’s an intriguing and
attractive composition which exploits and explores the medium in a highly individual way.

It would be an unusual quartet programme that didn’t open with either Haydn (or Mozart) – and ending with Brahms accorded with chronological convention too. Not so common, however, is for the 18th century to come over quite so powerfully in comparison to the expected richness and depth of the 19th, and this Haydn was exceptional in terms of its eloquence and expressive diversity. Thoughtful, and utterly at one in their ensemble playing, the Piatti Quartet shy away from nothing in communicating the drama in their music; from daring pianissimo to unrestrained tutti, with all the steps and emotions in between, everything appears intuitively shared and understood.
Brahms, far from the serious and heavy stereotype of his undeserved reputation, was presented as warm, lyrical and vibrant, and Benjamin Britten’s Three Divertimenti, mocked and reviled at their première a mere eighty years ago, actually provided a few moments of humour and smiles.

To sum up, a wee postscript from a reviewer who confesses to some initial scepticism after the recent change of SMS venue from Morrison’s Academy Hall to St Andrew’s Hall: To make an entirely good concert you need the right music played by the right people in the right place. On mature reflection, all boxes on this occasion well and truly ticked! (maybe those floorboards might have had something to do with it after all.....)

Final concert of the season: 
Travelling by Tuba, Wed 15 March, 7.30 in St Andrew’s Hall.

Howard Duthie