Possible over-resonances in this lovely hall were tamed by a large audience, absorbing physically and mentally the offerings from this well-loved quartet.
Opening with Beethoven’s early Quartet in D Opus 18 No.3 set the pace for an after-lunch treat. Occasionally when engaging with inner strings, the leader’s final note at the end of arching phrases was disconcertingly lost to listeners. However the sublime second movement became a balm to the soul, contrasting with an urgent firecracker Presto finale, playful and witty with fine clarity.
Shostakovich composed his Quartet No 8 in just three days; a haunting, challenging work. Snippets of ghostly quotations from his symphonies were an uncomfortable but recognisable thread throughout, interwoven by the Shostakovich doom-laden three “knocking on the door” notes. Some magnificent semiquaver passages and spot-on stabbing chords finally led to a suicidally resigned end.
Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet were a delightful challenge to the ear. Very precise and colourful playing led from an accordion-based folk dance to achingly mysterious close harmonies, whispering away to a melting pianissimo.
And finally, rich texture from Tchaikovsky. Quartet No.1 in D major took a little time to gel, with a hint of edginess from the leader in higher register, but then balanced by beautiful sonorities from a wonderful extensive G string tone. A hint of slushy portamento crept into the Andante movement, seemingly out of style but then exonerated by a truly fearless finale.