review by Gary O'Shea
The Elias Quartet returned to Sheffield this evening to deliver part of their complete cycle of Beethoven’s string quartets for Music in the Round.
To start, we had the popular first quartet, the F major Op. 18 No. 1, and this was followed by the less common but equally delightful C major String Quintet Op. 29. The concert finished with the late A minor Quartet Op. 132.
In the F major, the performers captured the vitality and humour of early Beethoven with demonstrable enjoyment; it is evident they know the score very well. The slow movement in particular was wonderfully moving. Each player displayed fine qualities as soloists and every phrase was beautifully thought out.
The quartet was joined by an extra viola player in Malin Broman for the Quintet, a work that showcases Beethoven’s mastery of texture. The players brought to life the composer’s genius in the almost schizophrenic contrasts between serious and light-hearted moods. The finale was particularly colourful in this respect – the controlled execution of tremolando effects created an almost haunting atmosphere.
The highlight was the Op. 132, which was played with the utmost sensitivity. The performers managed to capture the melancholy of Beethoven’s final years, while conveying the spiritual nature of the composer’s musical expression. The audience were captivated and clearly moved by the rendition.
Indeed, I eagerly await the next instalment of the cycle.