This review was originally written for The Public Review.
Kreutzer Quartet series of three concerts at the atmospheric Wilton Music Hall exploring pieces from Beethoven six Op18 Quartets. For this concert, it is the G Major Quartet Op 18 No 2, contrasted with Reicha’s G Major String Quartet
Op 48 No 2 and a world premiere piece by David Gorton, performed with oboist Chris Redgate. The evening begins with Beethoven A flat Major Menuetto as a prelude, a slow piece with interesting dialog between the second violin and cello and this sets the scene for the rest of the concert. The second work is a modified version of Beethoven C Major Trio Op 87 in which the second oboe and cor anglais are replaced by a violin and a viola. Unfortunately the strings are too strong which results in an attacking style that overwhelms the oboe. Also, the speed does not seem to be universal among the players. It is nonetheless an interesting interpretation.
Just before the interval comes Anton Reicha’s G Major Quartet Op 48 No 2. Reicha was a contemporary of Beethoven and a good friend. Their collaborations and friendship may explain the similarities between Reicha and Beethoven string quartet work. This is where the Kreutzer Quartet comes into its own with a polished and exciting performance. There is a shared humour between the quartet and the audience which shows a lot of character.
After the interval is the world premiere of Austerity Measures by David Gorton, a long term collaborator with the Kreutzer Quartet. Before the performance, the leader of the Quartet, Peter Sheppard Skærved, explained the structure of the music, which helped greatly with this rather challenging piece. The clever programming helps by putting this after the interval and before the finale.
The composition consists of the oboe, mainly played in “multiphonics” and grows in voice and complexity; the second violin and viola play a background partial harmonics which gradually diminishes and the cello and the first violin play contrasting works separately. It is visually interesting with its structure as there are seemingly four separate compositions being performed simultaneously. If Redgate underwhelmed on the Beethoven work, this is where he comes into his own with his diverse and controlled multiphonics and impressive top-end range.
The last piece of the evening, Beethoven’s G Major String Quartet Op 18 No 2 provides a great finale. Comparing it with the Reicha’s, it is certainly interesting. This is more lyrical and carries a cheeky impishness whereas Reicha’s has more contrast with dramatic passages especially in the third movement. The Quartet is clearly very comfortable with one another. They enjoy themselves and it shows through the music.
Overall, clever programming and the informative and humorous introductions from Sheppard Skærved undoubtedly help to enhance the enjoyment of the evening. It is a balanced and diverse performance from a very competent Quartet.
With thanks to Vanessa Howells.
Next concert: ‘Beethoven Begins’ Bagatelles and Variations , Monday 8th July