“Where, oh where is the music of Fanny Mendelssohn?” was the question posed by the concert given by the Carducci String Quartet. Called “Connections II” and presented in Shrewsbury’s St Alkmund’s Church on November 18th, it was yet another example of the excellent events promoted by Shropshire Music Trust.
Both Fanny Mendelssohn and her brother Felix were amazing child prodigies; their father was endlessly supportive of the son but discouraging of his equally brilliant daughter. The programme was book-ended by two of Felix’s string quartets, the 2nd in A minor which opened the concert and the 6th and final in F minor, which ended the concert. Between these works we heard Fanny’s only string quartet in E flat major and a suite from “Das Jahr” which had been arranged by Emma Denton, the Carducci’ cellist.
The quartet members were on fine form. The music of Mendelssohn runs the whole emotional range from a vibrant joie de vivre to utter bleakness and profound spirituality – and all these qualities were there in abundance in this skilfully planned programme. At its lightest the music zings like the popping of champagne corks, just like Felix's “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” music; yet at the other extreme both siblings produced bleak, passionate music.
The members of the Carducci Quartet – in addition to Emma Denton – are Matthew Denton and Michelle Fleming on violins and Eoin Schmidt-Martin on viola. Over many years they have established the Quartet as one of this country’s very finest; they play with total empathy for each other and a beautiful collective sound which brings them to the very soul of the music they’re performing. These works called for all these skills and qualities, sometimes sounding like an organ, sometimes bouncing along with a joyous touch.
The question posed at the opening of this review wasn’t answered but what it did show beyond doubt was the equality of talent with which these siblings were blessed, for the sister’s string quartet is a highly original piece and sounds remarkably modern for the time at which it was written.
Felix’s final quartet was written as a requiem for his sister; it is a deeply heartfelt work with moments of disquiet and sign of consolation and ends in a bleak, angry wildness; unlike his first quartet, which was partly based on a love song, there is no suggestion of the warmth of a human voice. Its performance brought a superbly executed programme to its conclusion.
The Music Trust’s next event is on December 2nd at St Chad’s Church when Ex Cathedra will present their ever popular “Christmas by Candlelight”; always a joyful start to the Festive Season.