Orchard String Quartet and Friends, 18th May, 2018.

As a diversion from our usual reviews of EMG Symphony Orchestra concerts, I’d like to report on a chamber music concert that took place in St Andrew’s Church, Ashburton, on Friday 18th May.  As part of the Three Churches Festival, the Orchard String Quartet featured two of the Exeter Music Group’s members, Ruth James on violin and Isabelle Woollcott on cello. The quartet provided us with a delightful selection of music for a lovely spring evening starting with the short but well executed Concerto Grosso no. 4 by Corelli. We were then treated to a selection of lighter works including Ladies in Lavender, Eliza Aria, Molly on the Shore and the Ashokan Farewell. At the centre of the first half was the slow movement from Borodin’s 2nd string quartet, beautifully and sensitively performed by all members of the ensemble. Leroy Anderson’s Blue Tango and a short piece by Boccherini rounded off the first half of the concert.

The rousing, spontaneous applause that greeted the end of the Mendelssohn, the sole work in the second half of the concert, was thoroughly well deserved. Here was a work written when the composer was only a teenager but already showing elements of maturity well beyond his years. It is a vibrant and cheerful work punctuated with dramatic twists between vigorous forte and delicate piano passages that the ensemble conveyed really well. For the Mendelssohn, the regular quartet were joined by EMG’s Amey Farrell on cello, and other Friends. Expertly led by Anna Cockcroft, each of the performer’s communication and listening skills were tested through the interplay between the instruments. If they were flagging by the presto of the last movement they didn’t show it, keeping the momentum and vigour through to the very last note.

I look forward to hearing the quartet again; even better if they meet as an octet, and I can wholeheartedly recommend them if you are looking for an evening’s cultural diversion.