Thursday, 23 November 2017

Rollercoaster musical journey was performed out-standingly

OH what joy! This concert by the Heath Quartet and promoted by the Maidenhead Music Society

OH what joy! This concert by the Heath Quartet and promoted by the Maidenhead Music Society was delightful.

The string quartet is a special genre regarded by many as the jewel in the crown of classical music achievement. It places great demands on the players, who have nowhere to hide.

Ensemble, balance, uniformity of interpretation, impeccable intonation and virtuoso ability for each player’s chosen instrument are just the baseline for delivering a good performance.

The Heath Quartet excelled in every respect. The result was nearly two hours of exceptional music-making that had the audience totally absorbed throughout.

Usually string quartets are played with all four players sitting down. The Heath Quartet does things differently.



The three upper strings players stood throughout, the cellist being seated on a dais that raised him to be level with his colleagues.

This enhanced the extensive use of body language between the players. It was clearly intended to improve ensemble and also enabled the quartet to establish excellent rapport between themselves and the audience from the outset.

The programme began with the Quartet Opus 50 Number 4 by Joseph Haydn, who is often referred to as the “father” of the genre.

This, the most serious of the Opus 50 set, was nevertheless treated mainly lightly with all the intimacy one would expect for a piece originally designed to please in the surroundings of the family home.

The final fugue was a very spirited tour de force.

Beethoven’s late Quartet in Bb Opus 130 was given entirely different treatment.

It seems that in his five final quartets Beethoven chose to extend and experiment with the bounds of form and tonality he had done so much to establish in his life.

The Heath Quartet made perfect sense of the challenging score and delivered a consistent and wholly convincing interpretation of it. This was a masterful performance.

Sadly, Schubert’s idyllic String Quintet had to be abandoned for the best of reasons (childbirth), so Dvorak’s sunny Quartet in G major Opus 106 was played in its place.

Dvorak wrote this piece on return to his native Czechoslovakia in triumph after a long stay in America. It is a happy work, full of Czech references and brimming with the composer’s love for his homeland.

The Heath Quartet’s presentation of it was spellbinding, with every little detail and nuance being displayed affectionately like delicate china on a mantelpiece.

The quartet’s timeless and deeply moving performance of the Adagio was arguably the highest point of the evening among many memorable peaks.

The finale took the audience on a rollercoaster ride with some exquisite, poignant pianissimo playing through to the final burst of pure joy.

It was a very satisfying way to end a most memorable concert. The moved and enthusiastic audience showed its appreciation in full.

Review: John Burleigh



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