Review: Fitzwilliam String Quartet at The Dream Factory, Leamington Music Celebration

  Posted: 14.10.20 at 11:00 by Clive Peacock

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Clive Peacock offers his review of the Fitzwilliam String Quartet at the Dream Factory, and a celebration of fifty years association between Richard Phillips and the quartet.

What an excellent way to celebrate a belated eightieth birthday and a near fifty year achievement! Warwick resident, Richard Phillips, did both on Tuesday night.

For Richard, the eightieth birthday came and went before his longed-for return of live music in Leamington and Warwick. Fortunately, in the last two weeks, the Elias String Quartet thrilled two audiences at a double-bill in Holy Trinity Church, Leamington and last night, the Dream Factory in Warwick hosted their second live event since lockdown – a celebration of Phillips’ fifty year association with the Fitzwilliam String Quartet.

1971 was the year the relationship with Fitzwilliam began when they took up a residency at the University of York. Now, nearly fifty years on, Fitzwilliam returned to fuel Phillips’ insatiable appetite for chamber music. The records show this promoter has brought 400 chamber music events to the Warwick, Leamington area in addition to a very successful spell as Artistic Director of Stratford Music Festival – quite an achievement.

With Elizabeth Wexler, founding member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, also celebrating a birthday and now playing second violin, the quartet opened the celebration with Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade. Wolf’s seven minute work introduced the very familiar deft interplay of Fitzwilliam musicians with Elizabeth Wexler making her mark with clever elaborations of the early theme – one of playful irony.

Schubert’s Quartet No 13 in A minor D804 ‘Rosamunde’, composed in 1824, began Schubert’s move from concentrating on songs to working on chamber music; his monumental work, Death and the Maiden was about this time, too.

The Fitzwilliam String Quartet played at The Dream Factory this Tuesday

The melancholic opening is well suited to Fitzwilliam’s measured playing, the influence of Beethoven in the second movement clearly observed. Fitzwilliam’s absence of the dramatic proved to be appropriate in the third movement, which reflected Schubert’s tortured life. More spark in the last reminded the audience of the importance of live music touching all emotions.

Inevitably, the celebration ended with a quartet by Haydn (pictured above)! Phillips is well known for his support of the composer often referred to as the ‘father of the string quartet’. Indeed, Alan George, leader of Fitzwilliam, claims the six quartets, which make up Opus 76, was the pinnacle of Haydn’s career.

Quartet in D minor No 2 bursts into life after the first movement, offers an uplifting largo and, finally, the hugely enjoyable pacey folk music themes of the last.

Thanks to the huge efforts of the Dream Factory team and Leamington Music volunteers, the live music celebrations are in safe hands.

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