I enjoy listening to classical music on the radio, but this was the first professional concert that I had attended and I definitely was not disappointed! As I entered Christ Church, Hampstead, I noticed that the majority of the audience were middle-aged or over; and young people might have felt slightly uneasy in this environment as everyone was dressed quite formally too. Everyone waited eagerly for the entrance of the Carducci Quartet, and as the four walked into the main church, there was a warm round of applause. Michelle Fleming (violin) and Emma Denton (cello) both emerged in beautiful evening dresses, whilst the men, Matthew Denton (violin) and Eoin Schmidt-Martin (viola) both followed in smart black suits. The performance began with Haydn’s String Quartet in D Minor. This was a lively piece with four movements. The Allegro at the start was very energetic and Matthew Denton soon led the piece with vigorous bouncing and swaying. The Andante movement had some lovely, emotional melodies emerging from Matthew accompanied by pizzicato (plucking). The third movement, Menuet, was mainly a canon with the violins battling against the viola and cello. The final movement, Finale-Vivace Assai, had a dance-like quality similar to the opening, and the piece finished triumphantly.

My favourite piece was a contemporary work by Vaughan-Williams (String Quartet No.2 in A Minor). Eoin and his viola featured largely in this piece playing the main melody. He played poignantly, and I particularly liked the ending when Eoin played the melancholic melody to finish. The minor key of the piece gave it a sense of sorrow and loneliness which was expressed deeply and most sincerely by the Carduccis.

After the interval, we enjoyed one of Joseph Horovitz’s pieces entitled String Quartet No.5. This was a short; one movement performance which I felt was very moving for the composer as he sat in the audience listening to his own composition. At the end, rapturous applause followed as Joseph Horovitz stood up to congratulate the quartet on their lovely interpretation of his piece.

Finally, the Carduccis finished with one of Beethoven’s works (String Quartet in C Minor). We saw more of Michelle Fleming in this piece as she received the solo melody several times, playing it beautifully. Emma Denton held the bass very well with subtle counter melodies and her fingers danced over the cello with exceptional dexterity. There were some touching quieter moments amongst this boisterous and exciting piece, which were conveyed very expressively. As they struck their final notes, bows outstretched, a deafening applause broke out. This went on for several minutes as the Carduccis stood smiling gratefully.

Throughout the concert, I felt Matthew dominating, even though his playing is superb to listen to; it would have been interesting to allow other members to take the lead sometimes. One thing that I noticed and particularly liked throughout the performance was that at the end of every piece; the quartet would finish and leave their bows in the air for a while, as if savouring the sound and waiting for it to ring through the building. Then in the silence, they would relax and bring their arms and bows down.

Finally, one of my many favourite things about the Carducci Quartet is that they seem like a very close-knit family. They communicated exquisitely during the entire repertoire, starting perfectly together. It was a joy to watch them perform as they are very energetic and work together so wonderfully. I would definitely recommend seeing any of their concerts.

By Yat Wing Smart (age 14)

Yat Wing attended a concert in Christ Church, Hampstead Square, as part of the Hampstead and Highgate Festival on 13th May 2008