A Fine Canadian Quartet Visits London

18/03/2013

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Beethoven, Golijov, Dvořák: St Lawrence String Quartet. Wigmore Hall, London, 17.3.2013 (CC)

Beethoven String Quartet in B flat, Op. 18/6
Golijov Qohelet (2011) UK première
Dvořák String Quartet No. 14 in A flat, Op, 105

This was an interesting programme given by a major Canadian string quartet. The St Lawrence Quartet has been Quartet in Residence at Stanford University since 1998. Their recordings have been critically applauded, so the present concert afforded an opportunity to experience them live. They did not disappoint.

The Beethoven provided a substantial opener – especially with the first movement exposition repeat taken – and introduced the audience to the St Lawrence’s superb, balanced sound. One thing: the overall impression was that they were loud. The gradations from pp to ff were there, it was just that the pianissimo starting point was louder than one might have imagined. They also managed to project a wide range of styles within the first movement, from implied country dance to high drama.

A pity the clearly meticulously rehearsed Adagio ma non troppo, which comes second, was not fully interior as a statement; better was the hectic scherzo and the tender delicacy of the finale’s Adagio – this finale is subtitled “La Melancholia”, and with good reason. This was a multifaceted reading of much strength, that in the final analysis just missed true immersion in Beethoven’s expressive space.

The Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov, born in Argentina, but with Jewish Eastern European parentage, is possibly best known for Ayre. The St Lawrence Quartet has been associated with Golijov in the form of their 2002 EMI Grammy-nominated recording of Yiddishbbuk. Here, then, was the UK première of the 2011 piece Qohelet, “inspired by some of the teachings and poetic images in Ecclesiastes”, as the composer states. Ecclesiastes is also known as Qohelet. There is obviously a fluid element to the piece. The St Lawrence had played the piece in Carnegie Hall, in an all-Golijov programme in February this year. The second violin, Scott St John, told us to ignore our programme notes, for the order of movements had been reversed.

The piece is certainly atmospheric. Distant memories of South American melodies are set against col legno tremolandi. There is a deeply lyric vein here, and much beauty. The music’s rise to a climax of notable intensity, the long violin melody over a minimalist-influenced accompaniment, is perfectly plotted. It is quite a short piece, though, just less than a quarter of an hour; it makes its point well, if not earth-shatteringly.

The post-interval treat was a truly lovely account of the Dvořák A flat Quartet of 1895. This is a major piece, just shy of forty minutes in duration, whose intimations of Wagner in the first movement’s slow introduction introduce a welcome sense of exploration. The St Lawrence Quartet’s intonation in the first half had been impeccable, and their excellence in this regard paid real dividends here. More, the players successfully managed to hold together what can appear to be quite a sprawling structure. After a beautifully spiky Scherzo, the true highlight of the performance was revealed to be the hushed intensity of the third movement, Lento e molto cantabile. The whole of this mesmeric movement was beautifully voiced; the resonant contributions of violist Lesley Robertson were particularly ravishing. The gruff solo cello in the finale’s opening brought perfect contrast, ushering in the multifaceted movement. A superb performance.

Colin Clarke

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! 2020-2021 at Dresden’s Semperoper __________________________________
  • UPDATED ONLINE NEWS! IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020 Lucerne Summer Festival – 14 August to 13 September __________________________________
  • NEW! London’s Southbank Centre in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020-2021 at London’s Barbican __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall’s 2020-2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! London’s Wigmore Hall in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tamara Rojo’s new Raymonda and ENB in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Remembering George London’s life and legacy on the 100th anniversary of his birth __________________________________
  • NEW! APOLLO FIRE’S JEANNETTE SORRELL DISCUSSES O JERUSALEM! __________________________________
  • NEW! PIANIST LOUIS LORTIE IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! PIANIST JONATHAN BISS IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • NEW! YAN PASCAL TORTELIER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH SARDINIAN TENOR PIERO PRETTI __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH UKRAINIAN SOPRANO LIUDMYLA MONASTYRSKA __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH CHINESE SOPRANO HUI HE __________________________________
  • BEST OF 2019 FROM SOME OF OUR REVIEWERS __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR TOM HAMMOND IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR HERVÉ NIQUET INTERVIEWED ABOUT GRÉTRY’S RICHARD, COEUR DE LION __________________________________
  • SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month