The Holywell Music Room’s Coffee Concert series welcomed back the Heath Quartet to serenade us with Wolf and Dvorak. This second performance of the series saw people queuing onto Holywell Street in the hopes of securing a ticket. Many would have been disappointed, as the show sold out immediately after the tickets were released, demonstrating the quartet’s devout following.
The Heath Quartet is part of a new generation who exude energy and youthfulness. Formed in 2002 at the Royal Northern College of Music, their rise to fame in recent years provides an inspirational success story for aspiring musicians. In addition to their glittering recital schedule, the quartet are committed members of the faculty at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. This year they will make their Carnegie Hall debut as part of a USA tour. Clearly, they have a busy future ahead.
For this recital, the quartet chose to perform lesser-known nineteenth-century pieces. Despite the popularity of some of Dvorak’s works, he does not have the status of the German Romantic greats, and although Wolf was German, he does not enjoy the same reputation as composers such as Brahms and Schumann.
The Heath Quartet brought Wolf’s ‘Italian’ Serenade’s optimistic yet witty nature to life. They captured its Italiante spirit through the contrast created between flamboyant, romantic declarations and jaunty themes. The cellist revelled in the melodic richness of his solo line, producing a truly operatic persona. The work’s uplifting ending prompted many smiles between members of the group, and their obvious enjoyment was transferred to the audience who responded with rapturous applause.
The Heath Quartet provided the audience with moments of more profound emotion in their interpretation of Dvorak’s Quartet No.13. Composed in 1895, No.13 is defined by its constant variation of texture across all four movements. The group embraced this challenge with gusto, and were not afraid to use a hard edge to their sound in dramatic climaxes for additional impact.
Dvorak, a viola player himself, would have approved of the luscious tone displayed in the solo viola lines, and the movement ended with a virtuosic firework display that showed both impressive energy and ensemble skills.
Various landscapes were conveyed in the Adagio, from bleak expanses portrayed by the accompanying cello’s fifth figuration to other worldly heights achieved by the delicate upper registers of the violins. The Finale started with a delicately precise Andante section, which quickly gave way to spontaneous interplay between all four members. The constant change of texture provided a whistle-stop tour of human emotion. During the final bars of the concert, the audience were swept away by the ensemble’s dazzling energy which left an obvious lasting impression.
The Heath Quartet successfully renewed the audience’s optimism for the year ahead and for the younger generation of chamber music. Hopefully the quartet will continue to return to Oxford, bringing along their passion for chamber music, despite their increasingly hectic schedules.
PHOTO/ Ben W