Carducci Quartet and Danny Driver by Richard Bratby

On a scorching summer afternoon, it was hard to imagine a more wintry programme than that given by the Carducci Quartet and pianist Danny Driver. It wasn’t their fault, of course: the choice of Shostakovich’s Quartet No.8 and Elgar’s Piano Quintet was part of a theme of war and conflict that runs throughout the 2018 Lichfield Festival. No-one could fairly have anticipated that it would coincide with the sort of weather that would have had Elgar out and cycling about the Malverns – while it’s hard to imagine the football-crazy Shostakovich sitting down for a recital during a major World Cup fixture.

In any case, it was packed: a vindication for serious, high-quality chamber music programming in a Festival which has occasionally seemed slightly embarrassed about its classical offering. The Carduccis opened with the Shostakovich: a lyrical, subtly-layered interpretation that resisted the temptation to thrash the life out of the ferocious central movements. The back-story of this piece is so thoroughly familiar now that it was actually rather a relief to hear it played with as much poetry as passion.

There was the same bigness of vision and warmth of sound in the Elgar, too: again, it was good to hear the picturesque elements of the piece (those ghostly Spanish dances) treated as part of a grander vision - by the end, very grand indeed. In between, Driver, gave thoughtful, eloquent performances of Brahms’s late Op.119 piano pieces – their huge emotional vistas glimpsed, then gently renounced, as the composer turned inwards. 

Richard Bratby

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