Modigliani Quartet give the UK premiere of Turnage's Split Apart

POWERFUL, ANGRY TURNAGE PREMIERE

QUATUOR MODIGLIANI
St James' Church, Chipping Campden *****
Arguably the best thing to emerge from Brexit is Mark-Anthony Turnage's Split Apart, a substantial five-movement string quartet born of the composer's despair and anger at the outcome of the Brexit referendum.
In an engaging pre-concert Question & Answer session at this year's continually enterprising Chipping Campden Festival Turnage confessed that this was the first time he had felt the confidence to tackle this most demanding of vehicles without the prop of other instruments. He referred to Beethoven, and indeed that greatest composer of string quartets casts a darkly benevolent presence over Split Apart, not only in its structure, but also in the slowly developing colloquy of the second movement.
The fourth movement distorts and fragments the intervals of Beethoven's Ode to Joy (which of course became the great anthem of European unity), but here as well we hear the textures of Michael Tippett, that great humanist composer who revered Beethoven so much.
This was this powerful work's UK premiere, delivered with immense understanding by the Quatuor Modigliani, a remarkable, well-attuned and empathetic ensemble which has already performed the piece four times in Europe.
Playing with such natural synchronicity and flexibility of balance, combining strength and delicacy,the Modigiliani concluded with Schubert's late G major Quartet, a work full of magical, otherworldly sounds, almost orchestral at times. It has proto-Mendelssohnian moments, and indeed a delicious homage to Rossini's Barber of Seville in the finale.
But the two opening movements are so self-indulgently prolix. Had I been Simon Sechter, Schubert's composition teacher (who also went on to teach Bruckner), I would have told him when to stop.
Christopher Morley

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