Dark clouds of funding threat provide background to another excellent concert - The Leamington Observer

Dark clouds of funding threat provide background to another excellent concert

The Eusebius Quartet

Pump Rooms, Leamington

WE get so used to being able to see the things we want – the art, the drama, the music – that we can become dangerously complacent, believing it will always be there.

The pandemic and lockdown took it all away for a time and, even though we breathed a huge collective sigh of relief when it returned, the threat, in the form of economic crisis and disconcertingly scattergun policy-making from Westminster, is perhaps even worse.

And so it was understandable that the Eusebius Quartet chose to preface this concert with a few words on the vulnerability of funding and the debt owed to organising groups who raise the funds and take the risks to allow us to indulge.

True, the Pump Rooms was pleasingly filled but there is still a battle to be faced.

Good to report then that this concert – in common with the recent history of this series – was well worth the struggle.

In many ways this was a concert of three slow movements. Haydn and, perhaps the master, Beethoven sandwiching an intriguing single-movement work by Leamington’s own Howard Skempton.

Haydn first – as he always seems to be for programmers. While not founded as heavily on the slow movement as the concluding Beethoven, the the quartet in G Op 76 certainly makes it a highlight. It’s no easy piece to play first up, the gradually unfurling harmonies and call for perfectly-matched vibrato a challenge for any group, not least one with a late substitute in the ranks.

At the far end of the evening Beethoven’s Eb Quartet Op 127 provides as clear a picture as you could wish for of what slow tempo writing can achieve in this format. A vast palette of solving and re-solving cadences, rich supporting harmonies and tiny, delicate strands of melody and ornament just to catch the light. It’s a defining moment in the composer’s output and indeed in the development of the string quartet and, though the remainder of this evergreen work was immaculately observed by the Eusebius Quartet, it stays in the mind the strongest.

Bookended between these two mighty pillars of the classical world, Tendrils, a work from the early years of this century by Skempton, is one of those gems we’ve become used to discovering through this series. A single, slowly-evolving progress of endless canons overlapping one another to build a labyrinthine structure. Each entry into the musical texture takes the attention before another phrase elsewhere takes over. The impression is of a piece one could hear a hundred times and never listen to the same element twice.

This was a fine, utterly-committed performance of a fine piece and it was a bonus to have the composer present to acknowledge the moment. Another memorable evening and one, you would hope, that enlightened support would help to repeat rather than imperil.

  • Leamington Music’s attention shifts to the Spa Centre for the Remembrance Sunday Concert on November 13 featuring an appearance by the phenomenal percussionist Jordan Ashman fresh from his crowning as BBC Young Musician 2022. Visit leamingtonmusic.org for tickets and further details.

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