Modigliani Quartet - Haydn
String Quartet in B flat Op. 76 No. 4 'Sunrise'
String Quartet in G Op. 77 No. 1

The Quatuor Amedeo Modigliani - Philippe Bernhard, and Loïc Rio, violins, Laurent Marfaing,viola and François Kieffer, 'cello -comes garlanded with prizes. They won the Eindhoven competiton in 2004, the Vittorio Rimbotti in Florence in 2005 and the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York in 2006. Their approach to quartet-playing is rigorous and serious, and the resulting ensemble and intonation are well-nigh flawless.

Their music-making was heard to best advantage yesterday morning at a nearly-full Wigmore Hall in the slow, second movements of these two Haydn quartets. Both of the adagios benefited from real depth of concentration. The call and response between players, the passing of melody from voice to voice, the holding of the line were all beautifully and meticulously realised.

The Modiglianis then developed the sense of contrast with each of the subsequent minuet and trio movements by digging into them hard and playing them extremely fast, testing the boundaries of playability. The ends of these movements were then uniformly and precisely pulled-back, with immaculate precision of ensemble always having the upper hand. The final presto movement of 77/1 with its chromatic motif was dispatched with energy and aplomb, although with a curious and slightly mannered caesura interrupting the flow.

It is hard not to be impressed by the Modiglianis' playing. But there were occasions when the striving for perfection in every bar brings a seriousness which would sit more comfortably in, say, Beethoven, These players communicate one indisputable fact well: that they know these quartets inside out, and can bring out every glorious detail. But what seems less obvious, for now, because the Modiglianis don't show it, is whether they actually enjoy playing them.