of Chamber Music
Coull String Quartet
Tuesday, February 16, 1999 Vancouver Playhouse
by Angela Uruski
It is rare to experience performers who play their instruments as though they were their own voices sing to us in song. Each member of the Coull String Quartet spoke to the audience through their instruments with great intensity. This British quartet celebrated their 25th anniversary with their dazzling performance.
The evening began with Mozart String Quartet No. 19 in C major "Dissonance", which was performed with such enthusiasm and expression that I decided Mozart must have had an intimate relationship with the violin. Listening to Mozart's Andante cantabile performed by the Coull Quartet was like experiencing a musical tug-of-war. The echoing of musical themes between the violins, viola and cello created a sensation of pulling and pushing between the four stringed instruments.
After a quarter century of playing together, this group has the natural ability to listen very carefully to each other and blend their sounds. It was truly remarkable to watch and hear them play back and forth in perfect time and rhythm without a conductor's hand.
One of my favorites of the evening was a selection of Elgar's String Quartet in E minor, Allegro Molto. This intense piece of music was brought to its limits by the Coull Quartet, as they tackled every arpeggio with vibrancy and exuberance. Watching them perform technical pieces was just as exciting as hearing the music they created. After the intermission, their energy and enthusiasm continued to dazzle the audience with Schubert's Allegro ma non troppo in that each of the performers was playing his own song. If you stretch your ear beyond the main melody, you could hear the intricacy of each part as it was played.
The Coull String Quartet could not stay off the stage for more than a minute as the crowd's ovation warranted an encore. They selected a Schubert piece, which was by far the most technically challenging of the entire evening. This suspenseful, yet fast moving piece, offered the audience much variation in tone and performing style. What fascinated me about this ovation is that the viola player, David Curtis, returned to the stage without his glasses and played this difficult piece by heart!
The Coull String Quartet was a wonderful opportunity to experience Mozart, Elgar and Schubert's music in the most intimate way. This group is one not to be missed! Let's hope they do not wait for another anniversary to make their way back to a Vancouver stage.