Music Review: Leonkoro Quartet at Lakeside Arts

Words: Tim Hills
Photos: Nikolaj Lund
Thursday 19 October 2023
reading time: min, words

Formed as recently as 2019 in Berlin by the Schwarz brothers. The Quartet are: Jonathan on first Violin and Lukas on Cello. They are joined by Amelie Wallner on second violin and Mayu Konoe on Viola. In their time together they have won numerous awards - among them, first place in the Wigmore Hall International String quartet competition. Shortly thereafter, the quartet became BBC Radio 3 New generation artists. Last night, they took over Lakeside Arts for a magical evening of music...

Leonkoro Credit Nikolajlund 3

The evening began with Franz Schubert’s String Quartet in G minor D173, written when he was just eighteen years old. 1815 was an incredibly productive year in which he wrote more than 150 songs, two symphonies, numerous Piano pieces and this string quartet. Schubert wrote later that he finished the first movement in just four and a half hours. The Leonkoro Quartet seemed quite nervous at first, beginning without introduction. Their playing seemed very polite and mannered, with no one (except Lukas the Cellist) seeming to enjoy themselves until well into the third movement. Technically they were excellent and the piece was very well received by the audience.

Next up was Leos Janacek’s first string quartet. Written in 1923 and inspired by the Tolstoy novella ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’, which was, in turn, inspired by Beethoven’s Ninth Violin sonata. Here the quartet became more animated. Although the beginning is quite languid, it seemed to suit their style better. The quartet seemed more relaxed playing this. The second movement had them making some really interesting textured tones by bowing right on the bridge of their instruments. By the third and fourth movements they had really relaxed and their playing was benefiting from being much less polite and more aggressive. Again really well received by the audience.

They returned after the interval to play Beethoven’s Op59 String Quartet in F No1. The ‘Razumovsky’. Here we arrive into Middle period Beethoven which is difficult, technical and full of pace and texture changes, demanding for both players and audience. Here, the Quartet showed their technical expertise: The Schwarz brothers clearly revelling in the intricacies of the piece. I still felt they were more concerned about correct timing than personality and bite and I would have liked the viola played louder. But, I wish to take nothing away from their brilliant skilful abilities. It was a very precise rendition of a notoriously challenging piece, again rapturously received by the audience.

After several ‘curtain’ calls they returned for an encore. Introduced by Mayu, the Viola player. The first time any of the quartet had spoken to the audience. For their encore they played a really lovely version of the fourth of Henry Purcell’s 15 Fantasias. They excel at floaty and drifty elements of music. We saw them afterwards in the Foyer signing copies of their debut CD release on the Mirare label. Music by Ravel and Schumann. The CD is, as yet, only available at their concerts. It will be on general release on 1 September.

Leonkoro Quartet performed at Lakeside Arts on 12 October 2023.

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