whats onopinion

Review: The Heath Quartet at Birmingham Town Hall

The Heath Quartet became the first ensemble in 15 years to win the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artists Award.

The Heath Quartet became the first ensemble in 15 years to win the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artists Award. From the start we knew that we were in for a special treat. Neatly encased at beginning and end, bonus arrangements of short Bach organ preludes set the evening with tender loving care.

An appreciative audience delighted in Haydn’s G Major Quartet (Op 76 No1), the Town Hall acoustic being ideal. Well-paced, shapely phrasing, included lots of subtle contrasts, with swirling elegant dancing music engaging busy cello fingers, eventually ending with a carefree lively coda.

Then in December 1876, the first Russian quartet of any note: Tchaikovsky’s Quartet No 1 in D. The composer noted that Leo Tolstoy ‘dissolved in tears’ on hearing the meltingly beautiful andante – soon to become familiar and also through transcriptions for various solo instruments. Played with care and conviction; lovely contrasts with rich lower strings and opportunities for the viola to shine.

Twenty days saw the emergence of Janacek’s Quartet No 2 Intimate letter s. Inspired by his obsession for a young married woman, Janacek wrote over 600 letters to her during 12 years, much to the distress of his wife Zdanka. ‘The composition was the greatest pleasure for me’. He had intended to use the viola d’amore which proved unsatisfactory, so an eloquent viola had to suffice – played with distinction and verve this evening. Perfect high harmonics give an eerie edge to some of Janacek’s more inventive passages, but all performed throughout with gutsy conviction.

View full mobile page