Dante Quartet with Michael Dussek (piano)

The power of music to express the well nigh inexpressible was never more clearly demonstrated than in the performance of the Dante Quartet with pianist Michael Dussek for Cockermouth Music Society in February.

The evening opened with the fizzing excitement of Schubert’s Quartettsatz Movement in C minor, a gorgeous piece of shining sound from a group of musicians on top form. Then came Shostakovitch’s Piano Quintet, a unique composition which is heartwrenching in the extreme, not to everyone’s taste perhaps, as it seems to plumb the depths of every deep emotion, but at all times of an amazing strength which can be both profoundly disturbing and thrilling. Words cannot really do it justice but a fair attempt was made in the words of one of the musicians who played in the premiere of the piece, here movingly read by first violinist Krysia Osostowicz. The audience’s attention was instantly gripped as the passionate opening chords from the pianist heralded a very special musical experience.

Krysia’s pure and beautiful violin sound was complemented by the obvious enthusiasm and expertise of second violinist Oscar Perks (wonderful to see a musician’s joy in the music so openly displayed, reminding me so much of cellist Paul Watkins). Yuko Inoue’s viola playing is of a particularly high quality and her solo moments were quite superb. The sound of Richard Jenkinson’s cello was always there to give that satisfying mellow bass resonance which only a great cellist can produce.

The Schumann Piano Quintet was a complete contrast, with the musicians switching styles effortlessly. Lyrical, exuberant, passionate by turns and with tranquillity contrasting with tremendous momentum, this is a great quintet and one of Schumann’s finest masterpieces. Michael Dussek’s complete command of his instrument thoughout was impressive and his playing was a guiding force in the performance of both quintets.