SOMETIMES you really do strike it lucky. It would be hard to imagine a stronger programme than that offered by the Sacconi Quartet in this concert.
Haydn’s quartet in C Op 54 is one of those in which the master reinforces the fact that, even after scores of such works, there is invention, surprise and great humour to be found in the form. Plenty of classical cadences to anchor the structure and, brought out beautifully here, a finale as unexpected as it is charming.
A perfect opening and on any other programme a highlight in its own right. But this generous helping of landmark works had plenty more to give.
Shostakovich takes the quartet – and it’s audience – to many a depressing place throughout his works for the ensemble but few spots can be as desolate as that he constructs for his 8th Quartet.
There are passages in the course of this work which seem to challenge the musicians as to how quietly they can play while still just about registering a note. The Sacconi Quartet certainly rose – if that’s the right word – to the challenge with a texture which, at times, you daren’t breathe for fear of tearing. Even amid the wasteland there were moments of ineffable beauty.
Like the Beethoven op131 which followed it’s almost a demonstration of everything a string quartet is capable of producing. Haunting passages and moments of quite alarming power abound in a work even the composer rated as one of his best. He probably got that right and would not have changed his mind on this showing.
Daft perhaps to pick out one element of the playing from a performance that was just fabulous throughout, but the passing of melody lines from one to another (particularly from viola to cello) was just breath-taking. Just how much you have to practice and understand each other’s playing to make ensemble work this seamless I can’t even guess at. But watching it happen and witnessing the concentration and respect involved is a real privilege.
Live music always means a bit of a trade-off. There will always be occasional distractions whether that be the odd boisterous exchange or wailing siren from the street outside or the inevitable cough, chair scrape or phone drop inside. Sometimes you have to just block these things out and concentrate on the music-making taking place in front of you. And when the playing is this good, it’s a price worth paying.
Full details of a packed programme of concerts leading up to Christmas can be found at leamingtonmusic.org