An enthusiastic audience was treated to a performance of rare passion and colour by the Villiers Quartet last night in the Town Hall. Described as adventurous and charismatic, in their short time together this young quartet have developed an international reputation as exceptional interpreters of English composers, and this was clear for all to hear in the varied and at time challenging programme.

The event was dedicated to Leslie Taylor, one of the founders and a stalwart of the Devizes Festival since its inception, who died earlier this year. Leslie personally selected the Villiers for this year's Festival, and he would certainly have enjoyed a performance that was rich, special and unique.

The evening opened with Britten's Three Divertimenti, a series of open and airy character pieces that were played with wit and a forthright, rumbustious tone.

This was followed by Mendelssohn's String Quartet no. 2, a piece of breathtaking mastery from the then 18 year old responding to the challenge of his contemporary Beethoven's late quartets. The Villiers brought a vibrancy and lyricism to the dramatic opening movement, which contrasted with the almost playful pizzicato they brought to the lighter third movement. The precision of Nick Stringfellow's cello was a highlight throughout.

After the interval, the quartet introduced a novel version of Delius's well known work, Late Swallows, written in 1916 by the then blind composer. Restored to its original composition following extensive work by Oxford University's Daniel Grimley, this was a piece rich in portent and depth, at once both nostalgic yet resonant of its time. The Villiers brought harmony and grace to the work, with sustained intensity throughout.

The concert finished with a dashing performance of Elgar's string quartet, which premiered in 1918, and was very well received by the appreciative audience. A commanding performance from supremely talented and passionate young musicians who will go far.

Vince McNamara