Review: Albion Quartet, St Michael’s Church, Coxwold, June 22

MIDSUMMER evening sun streamed in through the windows of Coxwold’s 15th century church, which was made famous by Laurence Sterne’s curacy. It made a lustrous setting for the Albion Quartet’s programme of Mozart, Schubert and Schumann.

The group is led by the fearless Tamsin Waley-Cohen, who was already enjoying a flourishing solo career when the Albion was founded three years ago. The opening of Mozart’s K.575 in D was gracefully understated and its slow movement equally neatly pointed. However, it was in the finale, where she engaged in rapid-fire dialogue with Nathaniel Boyd’s cello, that Waley-Cohen’s panache really came to the fore.

Despite its nickname "Rosamunde", which refers to the theme of its relatively gentle set of variations, Schubert’s A minor quartet, D.804 is, in its outer movements, a dramatic piece. Certainly there was near-stridency in the first movement’s development section.

The Andante was the finest example of the quartet’s "breathing" together, its phrases ebbing and flowing charmingly. The minuet lacked the nostalgia of the song on which it was based, but a sense of mystery returned in the finale even as the music’s intensity eased off.

The Albion stayed in A minor for the first of Schumann’s Op 41 string quartets. On several occasions here it was the viola of Ann Beilby that served as the engine-room of its intensity. The scherzo’s excitability took a leaf out of Mendelssohn’s book, while the finale’s daring tempo generated brilliance that matched the sunshine. Martin Dreyer