Quatuor Modigliani, with Bertrand Chamayou, piano; Gautier Capuçon, cello; Yann Dubost, double bass

Monday, July 06, 2020

La Grange au Lac, 37 Avenue des Mélèzes, 74500 Neuvecelle, France 

Guest Reviewer, Ateş Orga

There are concerts one reviews, concerts that stretch words, concerts for the remembrance. Schubert’s two great Quintets. The elite of French string players. A pianist with time to listen. High artistry, impeccable ensemble. Exchange, enlightenment.

No shortage of standout moments. Unanimity of approach, beauty of tone. Schubert’s tempos and dynamics taken at face value – fast, slow, loud, quiet. Perfectly breathed transitions and phrase-offs, dramatised points of return. Speaking ornaments. Exposition repeats. Tight attacks, immaculately voiced cadences, the hair-pinned final chord of the String Quintet’s first movement, magisterially realised, reaching for the Apollonian. The fourth movement of the Trout – a real Andantino song, the lightness of its pulse sprung to perfection, the water clear and carefree, the darker eddies ruminative. The Adagio, the Scherzo-Trio of the String Quintet … beyond pain.

Bertrand Chamayou, the ideal chamber partner. Yann Dubost, turning repeated notes into pearls of mystery, Vivaldi somewhere in the ether. Gautier Capuçon playing off Amaury Coeytaux (leader of the Modigliani, formerly the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France), between them the art and quality of pizzicato playing elevated to compelling heights. Coeytaux’s high-register intonation, pure and bell-like (1783 Guadagnini). The pursed, furrowed intensity of Laurent Marfaing (viola). The ascetic poise of Loïc Rio (second violin). The watchful, rugged presence of François Kieffer (cello), a figure to behold, Capuçon alongside – neither the better of the other.

Remembrance. I reach for Conrad Aiken, his Nocturne of Remembered Spring. Then Muriel Draper’s Music at Midnight, the “golden era” of a house in Chelsea before the First World War. Here the grand string players of another age met: Arbós, Kochanski, Sammons, Thibaud, Ysaÿe, Rebecca Clarke, Lionel Tertis, Casals, Rubio, Felix Salmond, Suggia … Celebrated pianists too: Cortot, Moiseiwitsch, Rubinstein … “Everybody … wanted to make music and more music forever … This want [grew] to greater strength than walls of brick and burned more brightly hot than wood.” Life in the place, Edith Grove, ended in 1915, shortly following the sinking of the Lusitania. “The fire was burning. One candle was not yet out. The [Bechstein] was open … In the morning light the flowers were lifting their heads, and on the tables violins … were carefully laid. Smoke was curling up into the roof and the room was filled with sound. I left it so, and so it is.”

Évian-les-Bains, the High Savoy, Auvergne-Rhône Alps. Schubert in his dying days. I left it so, and so it is…