The Coull Quartet made their first visit to Cockermouth for the music society’s November concert. Their first item, Shostakovitch’s Eleventh String Quartet, sparkled with the composer’s inimitable exuberance but with contrasts of mood well handled, particularly in the Elegy where Shostakovitch mourned the passing of the first violinist of his beloved Beethoven Quartet. Mozart’s Quartet in Eflat (K428) brought a sudden contrast with music of an earlier age requiring delicacy of touch and including a particularly beautiful minuet. The first half of the programme finished with a Shostakovitch Polka as an early encore, beautifully realised by the musicians- quirky, anarchic as only this composer knows how to be, and great fun.
The second half consisted of Beethoven’s Op. 130 and 133 (Grosse Fuge) and here the musicians delivered a great account of some great music. Roger Coull and Philip Gallaway have violins that sound completely different and yet work together beautifully and Jonathan Barritt (viola) and Nicholas Roberts (cello) underpin the higher sound with deeply satisfying resonance and support. The Grosse Fuge is a difficult piece to take on board, so personal to the composer as to be almost incomprehensible to the uninitiated, but the fugal subject could at all times be clearly heard as each player took it up and there is a feeling of resolution in the closing minutes, which comes as welcome relief to the listener after the Sturm und Drang of the earlier wild excitement.