Tuesday 8 November 2022

Music for the Moment: Haydn, Fanny Mendelssohn & Jessie Montgomery from the Kyan Quartet

The Kyan Quartet
The Kyan Quartet
Josef Haydn, Fanny Mendelssohn, Jessie Montgomery; Kyan Quartet; Wigmore Hall
Reviewed by Florence Anna Maunders, 4 November 2022

Fresh & passionate chamber music from a quartet of rising stars

This afternoon recital took place in the comfortable setting of London's Wigmore Hall – a venue which, in recent years, has become something of a Mecca for chamber ensembles, and formed the debut appearance of the current formation of this ensemble. On this occasion, 4 November 2022, we were treated to an early Haydn quartet, the single quartet from Fanny Mendelssohn and Jessie Montgomery's energetic work Strum, from the Kyan Quartet (Naomi Warburton, Sidney Mariano, Wanshu Qui, Simon Guémy).

Formed in 2019 at the Royal Academy of Music, with support from the Frost Trust, this quartet have already collected a respectable stack of residencies, prizes and awards, and on the basis of the musicianship on display this afternoon, can expect many more.

Despite her young age, brand new addition, Chinese violist Wanshu Qui, already has a considerable pedigree in chamber music performance in the UK, bringing a warm, full tone, committed rhythmical playing and theatrical poise to the middle lines of the quartet. Although this was her first appearance with the group, her ensemble coordination, particularly with her inside partner, American Sydney Mariano on violin, was sensitive & flawlessly confident.

Although a string quartet is a meeting of musical peers, the leadership of first violinist Naomi Warburton was clear from the very first bars of Haydn's "Bird" Quartet (Op. 33, No. 3) as she led her fellows with elegance and poise through the opening gestures and into the main thematic material of the piece. Later in the same work, she combined with Mariano in a splendidly whimsical violin duet, which was carried off with sublime ease and pure joy in music making.

Providing much more than a solid bass, French 'cellist Simon Guémy completed the quartet. He demonstrated a particular knack of taking a formulaic supporting line, and forming it into its own lyrical melody, with a sense of direction and shape. Particularly in the beautiful Romanze from Fanny Mendelssohn, his contributions uncoiled like delicate fronds of musical translucence.

To round off the programme, Strum from the American composer Jessie Montgomery, was a vibrant, exciting and absolutely genial conclusion. The quartet were obviously having a splendid time with this music, and their enthusiasm was infectious, to judge by the bobbing heads, grinning faces and rapturous applause of the Wigmore Hall audience. The ebullient Kyans are certainly a foursome to watch out for in the near future. They are currently one of the resident ensembles at the hall through an Open Academy/Wigmore Hall Learning Fellowship and the concert was presented as an informal event for people living with dementia and their friends, family and carers. The Kyan Quartet and can be heard in action there again on the 15 April 2022 – mark your diaries now!
Reviewed by Florence Anna Maunders

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