Edinburgh Fringe Festival (8) – The Heath Quartet complete their refreshing approach to Beethoven

United KingdomUnited Kingdom The Beethoven Concert Series at Greyfriars Kirk (8) :The Heath Quartet, Greyfriars Kirk, 24.8.2011 (SRT)

String Quartet Op. 130 in B flat
Grosse Fuge, Op. 133

The Heath Quartet - Picture © Sussie Ahlburg

The Heath Quartet’s Beethoven cycle finished where it began: two weeks ago they began their cycle with Beethoven’s Op. 130 quartet with the alternative finale that the composer wrote for it. This time, however, they tackled the pinnacle of the Grosse Fuge, the original finale which so confounded Beethoven’s contemporaries and – let’s be frank! – continues to do so today.

The Heath Quartet have done an outstanding job of refreshing Beethoven’s quartets in the concerts that I have heard, making them sound new and exciting and playing them with exceptional vitality. Their sound is thrilling, though their interpretations still have room to grow. A few times I’ve felt that they need to put down a stronger footprint in the more rhythmically unstable movements, something that nagged me again in the main allegro of this quartet’s first movement which didn’t quite hang together, sounding episodic at times rather than confident. Likewise, they didn’t seem quite sure whether the Andante was a slow movement or a scherzo and they weren’t quite secure enough to make it both at once.

The shorter movements, however, found them back on their form; the vigorous, scampering Presto, for example, and the Danza tedesca had a very winning lilt to it. The great Cavatina also carried beautiful strength of tone and they tackled the Grosse Fuge itself with impressive confidence, though there was a dangerous passage towards the beginning where not everything held together. Still, the Heath Quartet have been my most impressive discovery of this year’s festival and I’ll definitely be looking out for them in the future. If things go well for them then they should have great careers ahead.

Simon Thompson