United Kingdom The Beethoven Concert Series at Greyfriars Kirk (7) – The Heath Quartet, Greyfriars Kirk, 24. 8.2011 (SRT)
String Quartet Op. 18, No. 6 in B flat
String Quartet Op. 59, No. 1 in F
The Heath Quartet’s Beethoven cycle continues to be one of the most exciting things in Edinburgh this summer, the sense of something secret and a little exclusive being heightened perhaps by the late start time. They gave us the last (to be played) of the Opus 18 and Opus 59 series and, like last Friday , the contrast between the works was well chosen. The B flat Quartet felt like a work of maturity rather than one of youth, one in which Beethoven was straining at the boundaries of the form he had inherited, while the First “Razumovsky” Quartet felt, by contrast, like a work that was self-consciously re-inventing what the string quartet was capable of.
That’s not to say that the playing of the B flat quartet was any less sophisticated, though: the chugging busyness of the first movement didn’t mask playing of remarkable delicacy and detail in the articulation, while the slow movement’s simple beauty was undermined by more than a hint of darkness in the minor key second theme, though the moment when this was transformed into the major was beautiful. After its anguished opening the finale swung with lyrical bounce, though the rhythmic syncopations of the third movement never quite found their root as securely as they ought to.
The F major quartet brought some very beautiful playing, especially from the viola (Gary Pomeroy) and cello (Chrisopher Murray) who led into the main theme of the first movement with wonderful élan. This time rhythmic security was no problem in the sometimes tricky second movement, and the desolate slow movement was played with strident urgency and breathtaking poignancy. If the finale didn’t quite catch flight in the manner of the other movements then it still benefited from playing of logic and security. Throughout, the Heath Quartet confirmed their previous impression as fantastically talented musicians who aren’t intimidated by the breadth of these great works but approach them with freshness and winning energy. They deserve to go far.