Quartet's programme recalls music from amidst the suffering - The Leamington Observer

Quartet's programme recalls music from amidst the suffering

Leamington Editorial 30th Jan, 2023   0

Piatti String Quartet

Pump Rooms, Leamington

Remembering is such a necessity, even in these days when every single word, note or picture seems to be committed to the eternal cloud for posterity.

On this day in particular we remember the Holocaust, not just its absurd, awful human cost, but the complete absence of humanity that made its happening even possible.

Two quartets by composers whose lives were cut sort after their spells in the ghetto of Terezin ended in the inevitable journey to the extermination chambers of Auschwitz.

Although it is quite understandable that our retrospective view of history would give both those composers’ works a sense of approaching menace and life falling apart, that feeling is there in the music. Written as the worst not only threatened but finally arrived, this music occupies desolate spaces and – particularly in Viktor Ullmann’s desperate Largo – it’s as if the four musicians, lost in consuming grief are doing as much as they can to prop each other up.

Perhaps the abiding lesson from these two fine works, played with such respect, care and brilliance on this day, is that music itself cannot be extinguished however brutal the fate that befalls its makers at the hands of insane ideologies.

We should of course remember Ullmann and Pavel Haas – and countless others – but perhaps not with any greater sense of grief than any of the other millions wiped out. At least we have a glimpse of what they could produce and the sense of loss of what they may have gone on to do is memorial enough.

In a further twist of its grim history, Terezin retained many of its cultural and artistic citizens, for a time anyway. Music would have been heard, unlikely and incongruous as that seems, around its streets and quartets like those of Beethoven were among the pieces forming a soundtrack to the despair and cruelty of the city.

The E minor 59/2, one of three Razumovsky quartets, provides plenty of opportunity for lament, not least in its drawn out, plaintive second movement. This is Beethoven at his most heart-rending, played with a delicate concentration by the quartet in what looks and sounds like just their territory.

As with so many of Beethoven’s quartets the softest of dynamics give way to fireworks at the end. Music like this always seems to hint at a victory of sorts for courage and steadfastness over whatever challenges and trials life puts in our way. Even with triumphant playing like the Piatti Quartet provided at this recital, it’s hard to imagine how that message would have sounded on those streets at that time.

The coming months are a busy time for music making in the area with a range of concerts at many venues. For full details visit leamingtonmusic.org .


Matthew Salisbury


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