For their evening concert on 4 February, the Resol String Quartet contrasted some familiar repertoire with a twenty-first century work and some traditional folk music. All items were rendered with exceptional passion and commitment.
Haydn’s String Quartet, Op.76, No.2 in D minor, known as the ‘Fifths’ (1797), benefited from a strikingly brisk and powerful interpretation. This incisive approach recalled the tenebrous urgency of the composer’s earlier, so-called ‘Strum und Drang’ period of the late 1760s and late 1770s, underlined by a grippingly austere traversal of the ‘witches minuet’, with its flinty, two-part canon.
Dedicated to composer David Matthews and subtitled ‘Earth and Angels’, Julian Broughton’s String Quartet No.2 dates originally from 2004, with some revisions made six years later. Fleet-footed and spirited, the opening movement exploited a lyrical, pastoral-sounding principal theme based on blackbird song and a more dance-like secondary idea in a successful fusion of sonata first movement with scherzo material. The score’s subtitle derives from the slow movement, which set out a dialogue between the slow, darkly sonorous ‘Earth’ music and freer, birdsong-related ‘Angels’ material, sitting in a higher register. In an impassioned episode, played at white heat, the two music’s merged. After this, the movement’s opening was reiterated, and the pellucid final bars were given over to birdsong. The third and final movement returned to the bustling exuberance of the first. After an impressive, richly wrought fugue, the quartet’s opening songlike idea recurred and the work ended calmly, but emphatically. Maintaining a fine balance between refinement and spontaneity, the Resol Quartet gave a deeply considered account of this exacting but satisfying score, while at the same time being unafraid to approach the notes with a liberating degree of interpretative freedom.
After the interval, the young players gave the audience a treat with three sets of folk, and folk-inspired music, by turns Scottish, Canadian and Nordic and all skillfully arranged by the quartet’s cellist, Alasdair Morton-Teng. Bringing an insouciant lilt and toe-tapping zest to the infectious melodies, the performers palpably delighted the audience with this uplifting selection.
Beethoven’s String Quartet Op.18, No.2 in G major rounded off the published programme. Again, the musicians favoured quick tempos, but without compromising the work’s essential elegance and poise. There was wit and playfulness in the scherzo and finale, a pleasing foil to the first movement’s refinement and the slow movement’s expressive warmth. The substantial audience applauded the Resols enthusiastically. Their reward was a delightfully crisp, tautly sprung reading of the third movement of Florence Price’s String Quartet in A minor of 1935, with its deft use of lively African American dance idioms. This spirited encore was a thoroughly engaging conclusion to a varied, carefully compiled bill of fare.