Esmé String Quartet delight Chichester Chamber Concerts

Esme Quartet
Esme Quartet

REVIEW BY Raymond Greenlees

Esmé String Quartet Concert in the Assembly Rooms, Chichester

This Quartet of young women from South Korea, who all studied at the Cologne Hochschule, gave an exhilarating concert of string quartets by Beethoven, Bridge, and Schubert to a packed Assembly Room. This recital was the first in a UK tour given as a prize for winning the Wigmore International String Quartet Competition last year.

Their presentation was remarkable in that they all wore glittering ball gowns and played from digital rather than sheet music. They played with impressive unanimity with great attention to detail and precision. This finesse was notable in their opening performance of Beethoven’s first string quartet, opus 18 No.1. Their graduated crescendos and wide range of dynamics was a tribute to Beethoven’s insistence on the strict differences between forte and the fortissimo which the Esmé unleashed on us in the climaxes. Perhaps in the slow movement, one would have liked a little more tenderness without sacrificing the richness of sound and remembering the composer’s instruction of Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato.

The Esmé performed Frank Bridges’ Novelletten with more romantic abandon and captured the warm aura of British music in the early 20th century. The string sound was transformed from silver to golden in this lovely interpretation.

Their pièce de résistance was undoubtedly the great G major quartet of Schubert in the second half of the concert. Their transparent & sensitive playing wove a seamless garment from the intricate repeated configurations of Schubert’s masterpiece. The Esmé ended the concert with an encore – a beautiful arrangement of a Korean folksong. Here, the young quartet played with great feeling, showing us a new dimension to their art.

Raymond Greenlees