REVIEWS

HEATH STRING QUARTET

Wednesday 12th November 2014


 

Haydn – Quartet Op. 64 No. 6 in E

Bartok – Quartet No. 6 in D

Beethoven – Quartet in A minor Op.132

REVIEW BY GEOFFREY KINDER

A Memorable Debut at the Ilkley Concert Club

We have had many wonderful concerts at the Kings Hall, and this one must be added to the illustrious list. It was ‘as good as it gets’, but your reviewer’s task is to say why this was so. The members of the quartet have total technical and musical command, but this is true of many groups that have visited the King’s Hall. Additionally there is also the most marvellous rapport between the players, something delightfully evident in the Haydn Quartet op. 64 no. 6 with which they began.

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Their performance brought out the wonderful conversational quality of the music, as if we were privileged to be eaves-dropping on a discussion between four very intelligent lively-minded friends. Their enjoyment and involvement in the musical argument was conveyed infectiously to the audience.

This sense of identification with the music was powerfully evident in a very different way in the Bartók Sixth Quartet that followed. From its opening viola solo the playing brought out the mental turmoil that the composer was experiencing when he composed it in 1939. The two central movements are full of bitterness; this is often uncomfortable music and the playing did not shy away from projecting its sour nihilism. Yet there are moments of real feeling and the playing responded fully to these more nostalgic episodes. The sad finale was given a very eloquent reading and the prolonged silence before the heartfelt applause began showed how moved the audience had been.

This was a very demanding programme for the players who chose to follow the emotionally draining Bartók with Beethoven’s greatest quartet, the A minor op.132. This forty-five minute work is a real Everest in the quartet repertoire and asks a lot of its performers; they met its many challenges with total assurance and commitment. Judgement of any performance of this masterpiece must depend on how the miraculous slow movement is played. Here it was faultless, courageously slow, technically superb with marvellous blend and a deeply expressive approach. Wonderful.

G.K.

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