Nicholas Yonge Society

  International Chamber Music in Lewes

27th November 2015

Haydn String Quartet in B flat Op.1 No.1 (La Chasse)
Beethoven String Quartet Op.18 No.3
Bartók String Quartet No.4

Arcadia Quartet in performance 

This was the first visit of the Arcadia quartet to Lewes. Formed in Romania 2006 when the players were still students, it is now a major force on the international scene. Its mastery of tone as well as technique was soon stablished in the opening number, Haydn’s string quartet in b flat, opus 1 no1, written when he was only eighteen. Deceptively simple in structure, it was played with rare sensitivity by the quartet, with never a jarring fortissimo to spoil the mood.  It was followed by Beethoven’s quartet in D, opus 18 number 3. Also written when the composer was still comparatively young, it mixes intensity with lyricism as only Beethoven can. The mild musical joke on which it ends produced its usual collective smile from a highly enthusiastic audience.

Beginning the second half of the concert with Bartók’s fourth quartet could be seen as somewhat risky, and there were a few empty seats vacated by those still to come to terms with this most enigmatic composer, still issuing musical challenges even though he wrote this piece as far away ago as 1928. But the huge majority who stayed clearly knew by now that the Arcadia would play this music as well as it could ever be played and waited for the result. And there was some lyricism in between angry scurrying passages and oblique conversations between instruments. Those listening for tunes would have been largely disappointed; those reacting to strong rhythms and fierce harmonies got everything they were hoping for.  What was never in doubt was the quartet’s commitment to the music and the brilliance of all four players faced by such a demanding score.  Applause at the end was loud and sustained, resulting with the quartet taking the stage again with a short encore piece written by a friend of the musicians who is currently Professor of Harmony in Romania. Some clapping, stamping of feet and the odd muffled shout all on the stage brought this piece to a delightfully light-hearted end.

A member of the audience half way through said he had never heard a quartet play with such delicacy, and hoped we would have them back again. That possibility is now being explored.

Reviewer: Nicholas Tucker
Photographer: David James