17 October 2017
Both Padmore and the Sacconi Quartet, who have a major expressive role as accompanists, are at their finest in ‘Soon, we will be free’, the serene, lyrical heart of [In Damascus]…pianist Charles Owen joins the Sacconis for the Piano Quintet, his crisp, incisive playing making a particular impression in the rhythmically buoyant outer movements
BBC Music Magazine, October 2017
1 August 2017
Seldom does a mixed vocal and chamber programme such as this hang together so perfectly...[In Damascus] was tailor-made for Mark Padmore, who summons up every iota of his immense interpretative powers to steer us through this reflective testament. This important release cannot be recommended too highly.
MALCOLM RILEY, Gramophone Recording of the Month, August 2017
17 June 2017
The beauty of the piece, for tenor and string quartet, is its restraint. It doesn’t sensationalise, get maudlin, moralise or politicise. The words are direct and the music respects that. The performance does, too: clear, focused playing from the Sacconi Quartet and lucid, unswerving narrative from tenor Mark Padmore. The rest of the disc is lighter but always with that trademark Dove economy: the Sacconis sound relaxed and bubbly in the 2001 quartet Out of Time and pianist Charles Owen joins for the Piano Quintet, intense and light-filled.
KATE MOLLESON, The Guardian, June 2017
1 November 2016
Music review: Sound Festival, Aberdeen
...All change, though, for Saturday’s lunchtime concert from the UK-based Sacconi Quartet and harpist Ruth Wall (*****), which included the world premiere of a sound-commissioned, bracingly energetic new work from UK post-minimalist Graham Fitkin. Recur for string quartet and harp was a gem of a piece, sparkling with plucked textures, its four-note earworm of a tune cast in endlessly inventive new contexts, funky and foot-tapping yet also full of piquant emotion, and it got a crisp, bright, thoroughly assured premiere performance.
DAVID KETTLE, The Scotsman, November 2016
4 September 2016
String quartets stand out for different reasons, from quality of sound (the Takács or, in the past, the Alban Berg or Amadeus) to adventurous repertoire (Kronos or Arditti or JACK) to versatility, among whom the Sacconi Quartet, currently celebrating their 15th anniversary this year, are front-runners. They have a festival, work with a wide range of musicians and actors and have their own label. They are also very good. The works here, typically, are carefully matched: Mendelssohn wrote his mighty A minor quartet Op 13 in response to Beethoven’s in A minor, Op 132. The playing is fresh and pliable, each work illuminating the other. Both have been widely recorded, but not together. Assuming you’re not a completist, that’s reason enough to snap up this disc.
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, September 2016
14 July 2016
Jonathan Dove’s new work, which received its first London performance in this 15th anniversary concert by the Sacconi Quartet, is an unusual and timely one. Scored for tenor and string quartet, it sets English translations by Anne-Marie McManus of text from the Syrian poet Ali Safar’s A Black Cloud in a Leaden White Sky, or Death by Stabs of Sorrow.
Safar and McManus have distilled elements of the tragic Syrian experience into words that are simple, direct and without any hint of rhetoric or sensation. Dove has succeeded in setting them to music that allows their plainness and understatement to register to maximum effect while maintaining a striking character of its own.
The string writing moves back and forth between painful intensity and frozen introspection, with many subtle shades in between. The tenor line – here presented by Mark Padmore with immaculate artistry, and a technique so finely honed that one scarcely noticed it – amplifies the eloquent candour of the originals.
The overall impact of the work and its performance was profound, an unforgettable example of the power of art to convey something terrible through an expression that is paradoxically in itself beautiful.
Dove’s piece took up the entire second half. The Sacconis led up to it with an account of Mozart’s Hoffmeister Quartet in which their fine balance and near flawless ensemble provided the bedrock for a graceful yet rhythmically vital interpretation; and a performance of Mendelssohn’s great F minor Quartet whose fury and ferocity set the scene for what was to come.
George Hall, The Guardian, July 2016
23 July 2015
This performance by the Sacconi Quartet of Sibelius's 'Voces intimae' was the finest I have ever heard. First up was his Moderato and Allegro appassionato (1888-89), and Nielsen, his First String Quartet (1887-88). Therefore we heard two contemporary Nordic composers, both born in 1865, writing music for string quartet in the same period of their careers. The juxtaposition was highly revealing.
The Sibelius is an ambitious, full length sonata-form movement. The Moderato is barely a few bars long before an impassioned theme begins on the first violin. Mendelssohn is immediately bought to mind, but Sibelius is flexing his musical muscles with great success. Sibelius had been nurtured on Classical (Haydn and Beethoven) and Romantic (the usual suspects) models, all of whose music he played as a violinist in a quartet. He had yet to seek, let alone, define a musical style that identified with any Finnish characteristics.
Nielsen's First String Quartet provided a complete contrast to the Sibelius and is imbued with a strong Scandinavian flavour; the delightful Trio in the third movement demonstrates fiddle folk-music to perfection. The gorgeous slow movement is a clear harbinger of the First Symphony completed in 1892. The Sacconi players were most impressive. The Sibelius surged forward and the Nielsen was well integrated, the sense of an emerging national composer fully established.
Both the early Sibelius and the Nielsen works are impressive examples of interest and compositional ability. Each composer was subsequently to write four String Quartets, the last of these the greatest by far, Sibelius's 'Voces intimae', written (largely in London) in 1909. Sibelius was struggling to come to terms with his mortality following a series of painful attempts to remove a cancerous growth from his throat. This String Quartet heralds entry into an extreme period of introspection for the composer already afflicted with a depressive, obsessive personality.
The Sacconi Quartet, confronted with music with wild mood-swings, was supremely successful in combining the contrasts of human feeling, and totally authentic. Sibelius was suffering and so were we, and this was a truly magisterial, full-bloodied and deeply thoughtful view a masterpiece. The first movement was portrayed initially as a beautiful prelude, containing an opening sadness but ending with the bone-crunching final chords that was truly unnerving.
The brief Vivace second movement was as light as a feather and as swift as a pedigree racehorse, providing welcome relief. Then the musicians confronted mortality in the expansive Adagio di molto, often likened to late Beethoven, and this rendering certainly placed the reflective inspiration of Sibelius on a par with the German master. The three hushed E-minor chords in bars 21 and 22, over which Sibelius wrote 'Voces intimae', were played with spellbinding delicacy.
The fourth movement, a sort of country dance, here became a kind of obsessive ritual, the players combining and departing from each other in wild fury. The Finale generated, by careful adherence to the markings for gradual acceleration, a release from the spine-tingling sensations of the earlier movements. Instead of the usual rush to the close, heard in many accounts, the Sacconi delighted in interaction. The flourish at the very end relieved the often-dark-spiritual journey heard earlier: near-perfection was achieved.
President of the British Sibelius Society
The festival sensation, the young Sacconi Quartet completely bowled over a packed audience. The chemistry between these four young players is tangible and magical.The Scotsman
A beautiful blend of sound ... highly engaging.The Times
An exceptional ensemble ... a unanimous sense of musical breath and a meticulous attention to detail.Musical Opinion
A quartet of genuine substance.The Daily Telegraph
Great power and sweetness ... intimate closeness.The Spectator
Enviable technical prowess.The Strad
The finest I have ever heardEdward Clark, British Sibelius Society
A triumphant performanceThe Observer