The Heath Quartet's reputation as one of Britains most exciting
and innovative young ensembles has grown steadily since their formation
in 2002. Their exceptionally committed and vibrant playing has been
recognised through successes in The Royal Overseas League Competition,
The Terence Weil Memorial Prize and the Nossek and Hirsh Prizes.
In 2005 they were selected from amongst the countrys most
outstanding young chamber groups to win the prestigious Philharmonia
Orchestra/Martin Musical Scholarship Fund Ensemble Award. A highly
successful debut recital in The Purcell Room soon followed. In 2006
the Royal Northern College of Music awarded the quartet the Sir
John Barbirolli Memorial Prize for Chamber Music.
As a group they believe in presenting unfamiliar works to new audiences,
and their flair for communication brings new energy to established
masterpieces. Actively enthusiastic about performing contemporary
music, they have collaborated with Louis Andreissen on his first
quartet, 'Facing Death', and with Hans Abrahamsen on his second
quartet - an event broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from The Royal
Albert Hall as a part of the BBC Proms. In 2006 they joined forces
with the countrys leading contemporary music group Psappha
in the European premiere of Steve Mackies Gaggle and
Flock for string octet.
Throughout the 2006/07 season the quartet will be appearing under
the auspices of the Countess of Munster Recital Scheme and the Making
Music Concert Promoters Society, as well as undertaking two tours
of Scotland for the Tunnell Trust. They will also return to The
Purcell Room for a performance in the Park Lane Group Young Artist
Series. They are currently MBF Young Artists in Residence at the
Lake District Summer Music Festival.
During their career together The Heath Quartet has enjoyed the
mentorship of many eminent musicians. Their main inspiration comes
from the years they spent studying with Dr. Christopher Rowland.
Other regular tutors have included members of the Takacs, Alban
Berg, Smetana, La Salle, Endellion and Lindsay Quartets.
HAYDN Quartet op.76 no.5
MARTINU Quartet no.2
BEETHOVEN String Quartet in A Minor op.132
Haydn String Quartet in D major,
Largo (Cantabile e mesto)
Of all Haydn's eighty-three Quartets, the set of six Quartets op.76
are amongst his best known and written when the composer was sixty
five years old. By this time, he had already completed all his famous
symphonies, and it was the period of many of his late choral works
such as 'The Creation'. Haydn was living in Vienna at this time,
and the op.76 quartets were composed for a Viennese nobleman called
Count Joseph Erdödy, who had recently married, and with whom
Haydn had been friendly for many years.
The first movement of Quartet no.5 begins with a simple theme on
the first violin which forms the basis for a set of variations to
be developed later by the other instruments:
The whole movement is full of energy and panache.
The slow second movement is in the difficult key of F major. The
difficulties arise as this key restricts the players' use of their
open strings. However, this is a lyrical movement of great charm.
Again, the main melody starts with the first violin - playing this
time in a sad, singing style (cantabile e mesto):
Most of the prominent elements of this beautiful movement are played
by the first violin, although as the movement progresses there is
considerable interplay between all the instruments.
The Minuet and Trio is especially interesting due to its cross-rhythms
and buoyancy. The Trio section (played before the Minuet is repeated)
gives unusual prominence to the cello, whose exciting quaver adventures
are sensitively accompanied by the other strings:
The last movement (Finale) is a fast and boisterous one. At its
heart is a delightful peasant dance introduced on the first violin
a few bars after the opening:
The excitement grows throughout this movement as all the instruments
play with elements of this theme. After the first violin makes a
thrilling climb high up onto his top string, this musical chase
ends with a suitably dramatic and satisfying conclusion.
Martinu String Quartet no.2
Moderato - Andante - Allegro Vivace
This Quartet, written in Paris in 1925, displays vividly the often
strange yet exciting sound world of Bohuslav Martin?. Prior to its
composition he had been studying with the French composer Roussel,
and some evidence of the mentor's influence can be found here. But
Martin?'s style is always highly individual and difficult to put
into a specific stylistic category.
In the first movement, a quiet opening (in which several introductory
musical ideas are shared between the instruments) leads quickly
to the main boisterous, folk-influenced melody developed by all
the strings. A second, more lyrical, section (with elements of the
earlier introduction evident) leads on to an exciting recapitulation
of the initial material, and the movement ends with a brilliant
The second movement (Andante) begins with a hushed, even mysterious,
introduction which leads to a second section of forceful power announced
with some highly dissonant chords. But this tight and tense movement
nevertheless contains some beautiful and lyrical passages and ends
with the same reflective quiet with which it began.
The third movement begins playfully with strong dance-like elements.
At a half-way point, a powerful solo violin cadenza heralds a return
of the principal dance theme. Further development of these ideas
leads eventually to a thrilling coda of amazing virtuosity.
Beethoven String Quartet in A minor
Assai sostenuto, leading to Allegro
Allegro ma non tanto
Molto adagio, alternating with Andante
Alla marcia, assai vivace, leading to....
The last six string quartets of Beethoven were the final works
he wrote before he died. For musicians and audiences alike they
have always been challenging - both technically and emotionally.
Beethoven kept a notebook in which he drafted many musical ideas,
and it is clear that the A minor Quartet (op.132), the Bb Quartet
(op.130) and the 'Grosse Fuge' Quartet (op.133), were all conceived
at the same time.
The work we hear tonight was composed in 1825 on commission from
Prince Nikolai Golitsin, an aristocrat from St Petersburg and was
constantly interrupted by the composer's illness.
In the first movement, the opening chords (played very softly)
introduce the main Allegro section - an exciting interplay of musical
motifs led principally by the first violin. The central 'development'
section in the movement is a long one which leads eventually to
an embellished recapitulation of all the earlier musical ideas.
The light-hearted second movement is in the character of a Scherzo
- being in ¾ time throughout. Especially notice the middle
section, where Beethoven employs a long drone-like effect on the
strings - not unlike bagpipes!
The third movement is characterised by the headings to each section,
where the composer includes text giving us a clue to possible musical
interpretation. Above the soft chorale-like opening, Beethoven wrote:
"A Convalescent's Sacred Song of Thanksgiving to the Godhead"
- presumably alluding to his recent ill health. Above the following
Andante section, the composer wrote: "Feelings of New Strength"
- accompanied here by bars of joyous trilling on the violin. The
last section (a final variation and development of the chorale theme)
is marked: "With inmost feelings" - after which this fascinating
movement ends sublimely.
The solemnity of the previous movement is swept away completely
by the opening cheerful dotted rhythms at the start of this two-part
fourth movement. In the second part, a short accompanied violin
recitative, ending with a fast scale passage, leads us straight
into the fifth movement - Allegro Appassionato. From study of Beethoven's
sketches, some experts have suggested that the main theme of this
final movement may possibly have been originally intended for inclusion
in his Ninth Symphony.
Towards the end of this wonderful work, and after further glorious
interplay between all the instruments, the quartet (which started
in the rather serious key of A minor) ends decisively and triumphantly
in the uplifting key of A major!
Articles and Notes compiled by Peter Case
for South Holland Concerts ©2008