Heath String Quartet
For their November concert Skipton Music welcomed back the Heath Quartet – Oliver Heath and Cerys Jones (violins), Gary Pomeroy (viola) and Christopher Murray (cello), all graduates of the Royal Northern College, where in 2005 they won the Sir John Barbirolli Memorial Prize. In the two years since last in Skipton, they have appeared with acclaim in various venues throughout Europe and this year undertook a two-week residency at the Banff Centre in Canada.
Samuel Barber''s Quartet in B minor, Op.11, dates from 1936. So well-known in the later arrangement for string orchestra, the Adagio's rich harmonies and melodic flow might overshadow the outer movements. But not on this occasion. Lively and passionate, the opening Allegro is interspersed with recitative-like passages for each instrument – hints of disillusionment with the pre-war American Dream? A storming Presto brings a brilliant conclusion.
Debussy's Quartet in G minor, Op.10, received a mixed reception in 1893. No rainy gardens or moon-lit glades here! The programme's promise was fulfilled – 'a ground-breaking work with attack.' Incredibly disciplined and animated unison pizzicato playing in the second movement was followed by distinctive lyrical passages in the Andantino and another spirited finale.
In his introduction after the interval, Oliver Heath suggested that Stravinsky, whose Concertino we were to hear, was no lover of strings! Nevertheless the work requires expert technique – not least in a challenging role for the leader who displayed an impressively bandaged index finger, fortunately, dare one say, on his bowing hand!
The Quartet No.6 in F minor, Op.80, Mendelssohn's last major work from 1847, the year of his death, concluded the evening. Outstanding ensemble playing, enjoyed throughout, was clearly evident in what is probably his finest quartet, powerful, enchanting and exciting in turn.
All credit to the Heath Quartet. Have we another two years to wait before they return?