The prize-winning Marmen String Quartet was founded at the Royal College of Music in London in 2013. Since then, Johannes Marmen (violin), Ricky Gore (violin), Bryony Gibson-Cornish (viola) and Steffan Morris (cello) have established strong individual reputations in addition to growing the Quartet's reputation. They are currently the Associate Ensemble at the Birmingham Conservatoire. According to their mentor Peter Cropper: ‘Performance is all about communication. It’s telling a story, and I feel the Marmen are dedicated to this ideal.’
Johannes Marmen’s introduction to the programme welcomed the audience with easy wit - and shared coffee consumption - and emphasised the startling originality of Beethoven’s opening of his first String Quartet – in A, Op 18 No 3. ‘Nothing he ever wrote before could anticipate this,’ Marmen said. The Quartet’s performance demonstrated a clear and accurate unity, which was enhanced by the frequent, relaxed expression of both the players’ faces and bodies. Bryony Gibson Cornish was balletic in her grace and supremely precise in her playing. The uncompromising, demanding opening was technically superb, while the sweetness and clarity of the third movement was immensely moving.
The sheer brio and vibrancy of Debussy’s String Quartet in G Minor Op 10 was thrilling: its four movements wonderfully expressive and exuberantly played. Steffan Morris’ cello solo was superbly resonant.
This tight ensemble gave a performance of humour, subtlety and drama, but their exceptional bow control lingered in the most delicate of moments, so the very cobwebs on the chandeliers trembled – just a little.