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Fitzroy String Quartet – 16 February 2022

A happy make-up for concerts cancelled due to Covid was the rescheduled visit to St John’s Kirk, Perth by the Fitzroy String Quartet as Perth Chamber Music’s fifth event.

This young quartet showed all the qualities of a great group: technical ability, musical projection and a togetherness which makes a quartet much more than just four players.

They began with Haydn’s Quartet Op.33 No.4 – not one of the well-known nicknamed ones. Their first movement showed that idealized conversation of quartet writing, with, perhaps Haydn’s fault, the first violin a little prominent. Labeled Scherzo the second movement was bouncy and rhythmical. The slow movement had fine viola tone, Joe Griffin, and cello decoration, Matthew Newman, and appreciated Haydn’s humour in the understated end. Pinpoint articulation carried the Presto fun of the finale, the leader, Dan Iulian-Drulac, ‘riffing’ in Haydn’s ‘phrenzied’ music.

The Fitzroy proved their stated enjoyment of Beethoven’s “Harp” Quartet Op.74. Their appreciation of Beethoven’s very different sound-world was clear, the dramatic sforzati like whipcracks in the supportive St John’s acoustic. Their Adagio was intense and provided further proof of superb quartet sound. The Presto was almost shocking in its kinetic excitement, not letting up even in the Trio. This contrasted entirely with the almost rustic warmth of their immediate start into the Allegretto con variazioni, where Beethoven gave each member a chance to shine.

Most amazing was Schubert’s single Quartet Movement. Being personal, it was the best performance I have heard. Often this piece is treated as an Overture: to warm up with and not really important. Not on this occasion: it began with tension and dark drama, intense scurrying. With contrast came the finely phrased silky playing of the leader. A truly memorable performance vociferously applauded by the audience in St John’s.