The Jubilee Quartet
Pump Rooms, Leamington
It is always a treat to hear something you have never heard before. Strangely it is equally a treat to hear again something with which you are familiar. This stand-out concert from the Jubilee Quartet offered the chance to do both.
Vilem Tausky was the embodiment of Leamington’s strong link with the Czech community. Witnessing the immediate aftermath of the blitz on Coventry he wrote his piece Coventry: A Meditation as a response to what he saw.
It’s a stunningly beautiful work and, in the hands of the Jubilee Quartet, a moment of profound sadness and calm. The music feels deeply wounded with the gentle pulse of breathing rarely rising beyond quiet.
The quartet have clearly put in the work to explore the piece’s subtle shifting harmonies, indeed this was their second performance of the day having already played in the shadow of the ruined cathedral earlier. This was a superbly detailed performance, well thought out and delivered with great care.
The bombing of cities on both sides prompted some of the most moving works in the classical world and, on the strength of this haunting performance, Tausky’s reflection deserves its place among the finest.
Schubert’s Death and the Maiden is a good example of a familiar piece which, rather than losing its appeal, cements its spot in the favourites with every hearing – particularly when approached with all the verve and clarity of this reading.
If there is a work in the entire classical catalogue which better displays the scope of the cello, or the skill of its player, than the first two movements of this quartet, then I haven’t heard it.
Sublime playing throughout from a quartet who brought freshness to the familiar and were not afraid to take the volume down low while keeping the intensity high. It’s not really the reviewer’s task to mention the audience reaction but the cheering, foot-stamping ovation and the extended curtain calls given here were fully deserved.
In highlighting the start and finish it seems unfair not to mention the Mendelssohn Quartet in A which appeared in the middle and which, on any other night, would have been a fine, sparkling centrepiece.
Good music-making inspires us to explore further and to revisit favourite places, and while the Schubert will continue to feature on my playlist, it is the name of Vilem Tausky I will be Googling.
More musical delights are on their way in the run-up to the festive season. Full details can be found at leamingtonmusic.org