Pump Rooms, Leamington
Another series of excellent chamber concerts comes to a conclusion and, under the thrilling control of the Arcadia Quartet, the standard remains exemplary and the musicality truly memorable.
This Romanian ensemble were notching up their third visit to Leamington and once again they brought a winning combination of the familiar and the more rarely heard.
The quartet in F Op 59 which served as the main course in the feast enjoyed a fine rendition, played with power and palpable energy by a quartet clearly relishing the depths and towering heights Beethoven brought to his works of this period. It is, like many of the Razumovsky quartets, well-trodden ground but – in the lilting adagio particularly – there are always new sights to be seen and new sounds to be enjoyed.
Haydn’s B Flat Op 33 No 4 provided a crisply enjoyable starter earlier in the evening, the quartet managing to edge the beautiful Largo almost toward Schubert before displaying perfect musical – and comic – timing in the cheekiest of endings.
This concert – like so many down the years – starts with the Haydn and ends with the mighty Beethoven. Reverential as that is to the genre’s undoubted master, it would be interesting, perhaps startling, to have things mixed around.
In both the Haydn and the Beethoven there is a clear sense that the composer is trying to take the quartet form to a new level. What had been a pleasingly versatile and portable ensemble developed into one of the principal mediums of musical expression under their guidance and experimentation.
But despite the undoubted, and rarely-matched, heights of these great works, the quartet as a form continues to develop. This series, like many from the Leamington Music stable, gives the stage to the experiments and developments of the twentieth century and beyond.
In the Arcadia’s current project of covering the quartets of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, the 15th such work is clearly a favourite. A sketchbook of fragments each marked with a clear time count, this music awakens from a slumber to reach dizzying, challenging stridency before slipping back to a gentle conclusion. There is a danger in such precise, restrictive instructions that the interpretation of the players – surely the whole point of live performance – can be defeated. Not so here. The quartet’s playing and the physical effort they put in makes the haunting music of the composer, very much their own performance.
Another fine evening bookended by rich musical treasures, but also another evening which should make us so grateful that music like the startling, troubling but ultimately triumphant Weinberg, is being played at all.
The Leamington Music Festival returns at the end of April. For details of that and all concerts visit leamingtonmusic.org