The Heath Quartet make classical stand to delight of audience - The Leamington Observer

The Heath Quartet make classical stand to delight of audience

AS befits the last concert of this excellent season, there was music and dancing – and plenty of fun – but rarely can it have been the case that all those things came from the string quartet.

The Heath Quartet opt to deliver their programme standing rather than seated in the studious manner most quartets prefer. And what a difference it makes. Bobbing, weaving, twisting and all-but leaping, this is musical of a very visual complexion.

It may seem a little daft to concentrate so much on the presentation when there is much that could be said about the simple business of playing, but the difference made by performing in this way is so marked that it cannot be ignored.

The effect is a little like hearing a recording of a Mozart opera quartet. It’s four voices all singing together. But when you see that same quartet staged, the relative emotions of each contributor, the secret looks and shared conspiracies, the grand oration and the cheeky aside – all is put on view thanks to an extra dimension listening alone cannot convey.

From the very start the effect – and the level of rehearsal, involvement and commitment that goes into producing it – is clear. The Haydn (in Bb opus 50 number 1) has the composer’s usual array of dance rhythms, but it is rare indeed to see them actually danced as they were here. Most musicians like to express phrasing with a bit of physical swagger but the Heath Quartet really are as good a watch as they are a listen.

The men, viola and cello, clearly seem to hatch a plan at one point, but the ladies on violin exchange a look and are wise to their intentions. It’s like watching Love’s Labour’s Lost with a live soundtrack.

The Haydn finishes – as they often do – with a series of false endings. Such is the level of comedic presentation that the audience produced an unrestrained laugh the RSC would have been happy with.

Fanny Mendelssohn’s Eb Quartet was sublime and impressive in equal measure. The wonderful, expansive slower movement in the middle provided every chance for the quartet to wear their emotions on their sleeves, while the closing movement is – for all four players – as virtuosic as any concerto and was covered with evident relish. This quartet clearly enjoys playing this music and wants to share that joy.

The music of Janacek (Quartet 2 Intimate Letters) perhaps reins back on the sight gags but there’s plenty of drama to witness and a dynamic range that veers from tortured, scratchy harmonics to lush, opulent lyrical phrasing. It’s a piece which uses the sudden stop, sudden start technique a dozen times or more and the concentration of the Heath’s faces is testimony to the effort being put in.

The fractured nature of the route through the work is rewarded in the final offbeat, almost jaunty passages. Intriguing, complex music superbly played and winningly presented – a perfect combination.

You have to take your hat off to musicians prepared to stay on their feet and put that much effort in for a whole evening and the quartet were fully deserving of the prolonged ovation they received. But surely a standing ovation would have been more appropriate.



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