Arcadia String Quartet
November 20 2021
Lakeside Arts, Nottingham
Review: William Ruff
Intensity was the keynote in a high-octane programme
The Arcadia String Quartet arrived at Lakeside on Saturday from Romania via the recording studio where they had been making a CD devoted to music by Mieczysław Weinberg, a composer whose work is only just beginning to receive the recognition it deserves. They played a short movement of his 7th Quartet as an encore; this certainly whet the appetite for more, so let’s hope Lakeside have signed them up for a return visit.
This taste of Weinberg was ironic, wistful, slightly whimsical – quite a contrast to the rest of their programme. Anyone at Lakeside in search of an emotionally tranquil Saturday night could well have felt they were in the wrong place. Intensity was a keynote from the outset with the so-called Quartettsatz, the only movement Schubert finished of what would have been a monumental string quartet. The Arcadia Quartet nailed their colours to the mast from the word go: tense, agitated, continual tremolos from all four players, a mighty crescendo culminating in the sort of climax which takes you by the throat and gives you a good shaking.
Then came Janacek’s First Quartet ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’, inspired by a Tolstoy story in which a wife has an affair with a violinist with whom she is playing the famous Beethoven sonata. It sounds like a Janacek opera distilled into 20 minutes. The Arcadia Quartet captured all the drama, passion – even violence – of Tolstoy’s original. There were times in their performance when the players had to attack the strings of their instruments with such raw force that one feared for broken strings and flying splinters – such are the energies that impel Janacek’s extraordinary work.
Some may have thought that some Mendelssohn after the interval would have been a more tranquil anti-climax. Not a bit of it. The late F minor Quartet is one in which the ailing composer (he had only months to live) stares into the abyss. It opens with great dramatic intensity suggesting Mendelssohn’s mental anguish. And the Arcadia Quartet continued their high-octane approach through the impassioned outbursts of the second movement and the painful despair of the work’s conclusion.
Ana Török, violin
Rāsvan Dumitru, violin
Traian Boalā, viola
Zsolt Török, cello