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Beethoven Op 18/6, 59/2 & 131
- Endellion Quartet

The Endellion String Quartet Play Beethoven
Director Phil Grabsky Editor Tom Postlethwaite

Seventh Art Productions DVD SEV 168

"cutting to rhythm and movement"

Here's an interesting culture clash.

I was preparing to warn chamber music enthusiasts against this DVD, about to write a damning review, when I chanced to turn up on the web this self congratulatory account by the editor of the multi-camera filming [L].

The Endellions are a good serious ensemble with a long established solid reputation, and they are scheduled to return to Wigmore Hall in May, where I shall hope to hear them in Mendelssohn and Beethoven, including the Op 131 to be seen on this film.

They make no attempt to glamorise themselves for camera and their faces don't take well to extreme close up. The main static camera is not well placed, giving good views of the violinists, but poor angles on the violist and cellist.

But there is no rest; every few seconds close up camera shots are brought in, even more distractingly for listening than I had found with a DVD of Barenboim playing Beethoven in Berlin: "- - I was irritated by the numerous arbitary camera changes, which did nothing for the music (e.g. 20 changes plus a couple of zooms and rotations in the six-minutes first movement of Op. 101) - - ".

But for the Endellions that indulgence, multiplied in spades, becomes a virtue for Tom Thistlewaite [L], who was new to "multicam editing in FCP..." and "vision mixing" the material.

Camera views such as those he chooses to illustrate his work make listening to Beethoven impossible; the only remedy is to follow the music on the score (it has become fashionable to darken concert halls and miniature scores are no longer ubiquitous, or indeed welcomed, at chamber music recitals) or else to switch off the screen and concentrate on the music...

Peter Grahame Woolf

The Endellion String Quartet Play Beethoven & Mendelssohn

Beethoven Op 18/3 & 131
Mendelssohn op 80

Wigmore Hall - 11 May 2011

This superb Wigmore Hall recital of "standard" works in the string quartet repertoire received acclamation by a capacity audience, and rightly so.

Their platform manner is undemonstrative - forget the smiling publicity photos! They just play perfectly rehearsed accounts of music which they know inside out, with impeccable ensemble and tonal variety.

The late, heart-rending Mendelssohn Op 80 has only latterly established itself as one of the composer's greatest masterpieces, and is now heard regularly, which was not so in my youth.

Beethoven's Op 131 comes up fresh and amazes every time it is encountered. Probably my favourite and the most forward looking of them all?

Playing continuously, its seven - or five? - movements are subjected to unexpected sudden changes, a multitude of "events" that belie analysis, though Misha Donat has a good try in the programe note. I followed its shapes in my score in the darkened Wigmore Hall and found myself wondering how student composers might conceivably learn from studying its twists and turns, other than to trust their own impulses whereever they take him/her.

No seeming spontaneity or exaggerations in the performance, so throughly absorbed have the Endellion's "interpretation" become, after doubtless numerous concert performances and complete recordings of the oeuvre; that DVD apart.

A fascinating concert, especially so soon after confronting Beethoven/Grabsky/Postlethwaite's "home entertainment" !


Review of the boxed set: " - - the Endellion Quartet steers a course of sane and human musicality - They eschew interpretive extremes - - " Amazon UK