Solem – 11th March 2022

Concert Review by Graham Saunders

It’s several years since Scunthorpe last heard a performance by a string quartet. On that occasion it was also the Solem String Quartet and we were not disappointed in their return visit!  The programme of pieces by Clara Schumann, Mendelsohn and Beethoven was a challenging one for musicians and audience alike, but both showed themselves more than equal to the task.

We began with a curiosity in Clara Schumann’s Three Romances. Curious, because the original was written for violin and piano but heard here in an arrangement for strings alone by one of the artists, Amy Tress. Readers of my programme notes prior to the concert will remember I was dubious about such an arrangement because of the extremely pianistic nature of the piece. I need not have worried; the result, miraculously, showed no sign of the lack of a piano.

The remaining two pieces, Mendelsohn’s Quartet in E flat major, Op. 44 No. 3, his finest quartet, and Beethoven’s last Quartet – No 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131 – were equally well performed as the quartet demonstrated an intuitive understanding of each other’s playing. The Beethoven is particularly demanding on the players, being seven movements played without a break and lasting 45 minutes. Could the players sustain this without the opportunity for retuning? And could the audience sit for such a long time without even a short break for a ‘bum shuffle’? They could indeed! The quartet held us spellbound with their artistic interpretation and mastery of the piece, so we did not think about wriggling in our seats.

After a pregnant pause, while we caught our breath, the enthusiastic applause said it all and was extremely well deserved. The mesmerized audience left with comments of ‘wonderful, ‘splendid’, ‘marvellous’ and just simply ‘WOW!’ This was a concert which will remain in the memory for a long, long time. Let’s hope it will not be too long before we hear this group again!

Photos by Marian Pearson