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Echos from Osaka

Wonderful review of the final round of Osaka competition by @bachtrack , one of London’s top music magazines!

"Every three years, string quartets from all over the world gather in Osaka’s beautiful Izumi Hall, a stone’s throw from Osaka Castle. The string quartet section forms the backbone of the Osaka International Chamber Music Competition, which also has a section for piano trio/quartet and a separate free-style Festa category. The competition has launched the careers of groups such as the Belcea and Doric quartets in its 30 year history; this year, ten groups from six countries were invited to Osaka out of 29 applicants. After three rounds covering core quartet repertoire from Beethoven to contemporary, including a new work by Misato Mochizuki, three groups made it to the final round.

What struck me most listening to the final round was how contrasting the playing styles of the groups were: differences in the sonorities, different dynamics between the four players, and even different seating arrangements. True, the quartets were all from different continents and different backgrounds: Hono Quartet from Japan, Terra String Quartet from the USA, and Quartetto Indaco from Italy. But when you listen to three quartets in succession, you realise that the art of string quartet playing can be approached in so many ways. All three quartets achieved an extremely high level of technical finesse, interpretative depth, and balance; for me, ultimately, the result boiled down to how the four musicians interacted and communicated the music to the audience..."

The last group on stage was Quartetto Indaco from Italy, who chose to perform Schubert’s final quartet (D887). Their tightly knit interpretation of this work felt the most complete and seasoned of the three performances and above all, they breathed and sounded as one. The group was framed by the first violinist, Eleonora Matsuno, with her attractive tone and elegant phrasing, and cellist, Cosimo Carovani, who was clearly the engine of the group, always alert and providing a strong foundation. In the first two opening movements, they articulated the dramatic contrast between light and darkness, lyricism and passion, calmness and emotional outburst, often with spontaneous expressions. After a breezy Scherzo, the finale was urgent without being rushed, and I cherished every repeat of the catchy rondo theme – surely a sign of a fine Schubert performance..." (Von Nahoko Gotoh, 23 Mai 2023)

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