Three Choirs Festival, Quartets, 5*****

Three Choirs Festival
Sacconi Quartet – Suk, Shostakovich and Beethoven
Worcester Baptist Church – 29th July 25
Paul & David Gray

Dark Music illuminated on a Summer Morning

It seemed incongruous to be sitting in a bright church at 11.00 on a summer morning waiting to be put through the emotional mangles of Shostakovich’s eighth and Beethoven’s fourteenth string quartets. The Sacconi Quartet’s programme anticipated that we may need easing into the experience and started with Suk’s Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale “St Wenceslas”.

This is a work that opens like a flower. From an initial idea, building a rich contrapuntal texture, moving from a simple harmonic language to one of greater complexity and taking us to an appassionato climax. This was a beautifully shaped reading with totally integrated ensemble playing.

Shotsakivoch’s 8th String Quartet is the intensely personal work of an artist who has spent his life struggling to be an authentic voice within a totalitarian regime. First violinist, Ben Hancox, invited us to take our initial, tentative steps on this journey, presenting the opening melodic outpouring with hesitant fragility. The piece builds to a savage climax in the Allegro Molto. The Sacconi delivered this with un-detached irony, enabling them to reserve the full emotional punch of the piece for the final movement, punctuated with its angst-ridden, staccato three-chord motif.
The opening of the Beethoven: a yearning, unresolved, highly chromatic passage of counterpoint, coming as it did, after the Shostakovich, shows how forward-looking this composer’s sound world could be. The Sacconi played as one, passing material seamlessly from one to the other. This is a work of many movements and structurally difficult to navigate. The listener needs an intelligent pilot to guide them. This young quartet provided the requisite guidance. They displayed a complete understanding of each other and the music, casting a torch where it was needed to illuminate the detail we had to see if we were to understand the whole.
There is always a fifth member to any string quartet, the audience. Great chamber music ensembles draw the audience into their shared experience. I felt this with the Sacconi. When they ended their journeys through these works I had walked with them.
Ben Hancox – Violin Hannah Dawson – Violin Robin Ashwell – Viola Cara Berridge – Cello

2017-07-31 12:19:53

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