Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

Opening this morning recital with Haydn’s G-major Quartet, Opus 76/1, the Pavel Haas members chose a slightly too fast tempo for the first movement; poised yes (if with some intonation problems for the leader, and later) but ornamental turns were a little ‘squeezed’, although the slow movement was affectingly soulful. The Minuet scurried, the Trio teased, and the Finale lolloped amiably with some delightful surprises – that’s Haydn for you.

Martinů’s Seventh and final String Quartet – made in America following World War II – bustles with energy and motor rhythms in the first movement, as well as unexpected harmonies and diversions, and with a Finale that is folksy and exuberant. In between is music that doesn’t give up its (sad) secrets at all easily – only by the concluding pages is it suggested to the auditor that a return to the whole movement is desirable and necessary.

Schubert’s expansive and ultimate Quartet (G-major, D887), an emotionally naked and volatile work here given an unvarnished account, although a shame to omit the (admittedly lengthy) exposition repeat, which only enhances the first movement’s scale, yet the development was entered into seamlessly and plenty of passions and uncertainties were brought forth to inveigle the listener with playing of considerable persuasion and interaction. The song-like Andante (if taken slower than that) seemed death-haunted given the musicians’ bleached timbres and the composer’s plaintive melodies, eerie interruptions also a feature. The Scherzo had the right amount of febrile edge, the Trio suggested a poem of melancholy, and the moderate tempo for the Finale threw into relief its rhythmic profile and that there is nothing easy about this particular journey.