The beautifully-chosen programme began with one of Haydn’s most cheerful quartets, opus 64 no 6 in E flat, and concluded with one of the great ‘Late Quartets’ of Beethoven, a work of legendary status – the very last of his string quartets, opus 135 in F. Both were played with immense colour and character: within the historical context of their composition (between 1790-1826) all the music’s fun and fury, calm and crisis, wit and wisdom were perfectly and stylishly portrayed.
Separating these two classical works was a piece of high drama – almost melodrama, indeed. The ‘Kreutzer Quartet’ by Janacek (written in 1923)
is based on a story by Tolstoy. Inspired by the an actual piece of music (Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ for Violin and Piano), Tolstoy imagines a scenario in which, during a performance of the Kreutzer Sonata, a husband’s jealousy is aroused by his increasing suspicions that his pianist wife is having an affair with her violinist partner. Following the performance, he brutally murders her.
Janacek’s feelings of human sympathy were obviously seered by this tale, and his musical representation of the terrible story spells out in stark terms the anguished maelstrom of emotions swirling around deep within the husband’s heart.
If ever a work called for a performance from the heart and soul, this was it – and that is exactly what the Elias produced. All the threads of Tolstoy’s horror story - the light and shade, the deep love twisted by jealousy, and the sheer horror of the climax – expressed with such telling feeling by Janacek, were brought together and expressed in playing of a deeply intense empathy.
The prolonged silence at the end of the work seemed clearly to demonstrate just how profoundly the listeners had entered into the story: and the prolonged applause which followed marked their huge delight with what they had just experienced.
A magical and memorable opening to the new Season, then.
Christopher Symons – Series Director
Tickets for the next concert, to be given by the pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, have all sold out. Likewise, tickets for violinist Tasmin Little and the English Chamber Orchestra in February.