The Strad

This DVD’s professed aim—a laudable one—is to demonstrate that it’s not just the sound that matters in a musical performance, but also the visual, even theatrical aspects. And therefore the Kreutzer performers have chosen four pieces from the 20 th and 21 st centuries that have a particularly strong visual slant.

Their playing is vivid, technically assured and strongly characterful throughout, and there’s a real sincerity to the performances with no sense of acting up for the camera. Perhaps this is the problem. We see hardly any communication between the players, and they spend a lot of time looking down impassively at their parts. The editing sometimes goes wilfully [sic] against the music—there’s even a strange moment in the Lutoslawski Quartet when we linger on the first violinist Peter Sheppard Skaerved lowering his instrument and turning a page, ignoring the other players as they continue the piece. Recorded sound is rather hissy, with audible edits and a few crackles of distortion here and there. (*)

There are times where watching the performer—such as second violinist Mihailo Trandafilovski’s scrubbing up and down bows in Stravinsky’s Three Pieces—really adds to the musical experience. But for the most part, this feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity.

* [strangely, no-one else has noted any defect in the sound. We watched the entire program six timers and didnt note any edits.]

—David Kettle