It was the first of three events under the collective title “Vienna to Moscow.” It could be subtitled “The triumph of music over tragedy” for the three composers whose works were featured all experienced appalling suffering, albeit in different forms.
Beethoven’s Op.18 no. 4 opened the concert, a work in a minor key. The violinists, Matthew Denton and Michelle Fleming, set out a sombre theme while Eoin Schmidt on viola and cellist Emma Denton provided a pulsating beat under them.
This instantly set the standard of musicianship for the entire evening. The rich, dark tone of the cello was beautiful in the resonant acoustic of the Adam Room in the Lion Hotel. The finale of the Beethoven work gave a rare moment of humour, revealing the musicians’ superb use of dynamics as well as their perfectly chosen tempi.
These qualities were equally in evidence in the two following works – string quartet no. 7 in F sharp minor by Shostakovich and Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” Quartet.
Although the Shostakovich is the first of three works known as his personal quartets, they nevertheless show a man at the mercy of a harsh regime. There were many moments when just some of the musicians weren’t playing. This created some extraordinary spooky effects and a stunning array of tonal colours.
This may be a short work but the players gave it all the intensity and enthusiasm of the other works.
And the closing Schubert work showed us just how exciting this group is. This is perhaps one of the best known, best loved works in the entire quartet repertoire. Using some “recycled” themes from earlier in his short life, Schubert left a masterpiece which he never heard – a tragedy as great as Beethoven’s loss of hearing or Shostakovich’s persecution.
The amazing moments of quiet playing in this final piece were as awe-inspiring as the violence of the Russian work.
This was a truly wonderful concert and the musicians richly deserved their standing ovation. And an amazing piece of serendipity – Shropshire Music Trust’s first ever concert over 30 years ago featured Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet.
The next concert in this series is on November 19 – put it in your diaries!
Review by Andrew Petch