The Navarra String Quartet delight as they open Funtington Music Group’s 2020 programme

The Navarra String Quartet
The Navarra String Quartet

REVIEW BY Chris Linford

The Navarra String Quartet opened the Funtington Music Group’s 2020 programme with a concert at the University of Chichester on 15 January.

The concert opened with a performance of Andreas Romberg’s String Quartet Opus 59 No 2. Romberg was a contemporary of Beethoven, but his music is far from well-known, and is still based in the pre-Beethoven era. However, the piece was a more than suitable introduction to the programme which was commemorating the 250th Anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, and the audience certainly enjoyed the performance.

The Navarra, with Magnus Johnston [violin], Marije Johnston [violin], Sasha Botha [viola], and Brian O’Kane [cello], gave a highly polished interpretation, as the music rotated from the joyous introduction in the first two movements, to a melancholic start of the third movement, before it moved into a more romantic phase, and concluded with the capricious finale of the fourth.

The second piece was Three Idylls by Frank Bridge. This English composer wrote the piece in 1906, as a gift to his future wife. Perhaps he was in a melancholy mood as the first two Idylls are rather dark, whereas the last is animated and lifts the entire work out of its moody introspection. The Navarra caught the spirit of the music absolutely and were particularly adept at portraying the transforming emotions from frost and winter in the first two movements, to the sun and summer of the third.

The climax of the evening was a stunning performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet in F, Opus 59, No 1 “Razumovsky”. This was a revolutionary work when first played. Passages of sublime beauty are often off set by rough hews, spectacular fiddling, tension filled sections, and striking changes in colour and mood. The Navarra were excellent, playing with an energy and intensity where it was particularly noticeable how they listened to each other and responded effectively to the challenging development of the music.

The audience were extremely appreciative, particularly enjoying the final movement, which probably rates as one of Beethoven’s most celebrated.

Chris Hough, Chairman of Funtington Music Group, said, “This was an outstanding concert and we are so grateful to the Navarra for their intense and committed playing, and particularly for commemorating Beethoven in such style and in such a memorable manner.”

Further details of the Funtington Music Group can be obtained from the Membership Secretary, Mrs Elizabeth Brooks, on 01 243 378900.