Pacific Quartet Vienna (Yuta Takase, Eszter Major (violins), Chin-Ting Huang (viola), Sarah Weilenmann (cello))
Flying in the face of Brexit, the European Chamber Music Academy is a body established in 2004 by the Alban Berg Quartet founder Hatto Beyerle.
It provides training for flourishing chamber ensembles, and here gave a showcase for the Pacific Quartet of Vienna, a chance for them to play at the hallowed Wigmore Hall for the first time.
There was much to admire. A nicely balanced program of Mozart and Schumann began with one of the six quartets the former composer wrote and dedicated to Haydn. The D minor is the darkest quartet of the six, exploring more oblique harmonies and melodies than the composer normally would. The quartet gave a nicely poised performance, the obdurate and slightly gruff outer movements punctuated by flashes of light. The slow movement was light and beautifully floated, as though they were performing an aria, while the trio section of the stern minuet took the weight away completely, a note of mischief added to the duets between leader Yuta Takase and violist Chin-Ting Huang.
For the Schumann the quartet had a noticeably warmer sound, and they bought joy to one of the composer’s happiest utterances, written in the wake of his marriage to Clara. The lyrical first movement and romantic third were affectionately played, Huang giving maximum expression to the melodies. The scherzo was fun but eventually paled in the shadow of the finale, which gets obsessed with a ten note motif to the point of distraction. Here it cropped up with amusing regularity, the intervening sections deliberately contrasted with it so that it felt like home.
This was an impressive first Wigmore outing for the quartet, who clearly enjoyed the experience and the music they brought with them. I would wager it won’t be the last!