British quartet’s virtuosity enthrals

Elizabeth Bouman
Elizabeth Bouman
The Chamber Music New Zealand event in the Dunedin Glenroy Auditorium last Saturday evening was a recital by the Heath Quartet, and the good-sized audience was enthralled by the virtuosity of these touring British performers, and the refreshing variety of interpretation accorded the four works presented, writes Elizabeth Bouman.

Three of Bach’s Chorale Preludes based on Lutheran chorales, began the recital in a rather sombre mood, with passages of slow, careful and exquisitely articulated polyphony, where I found myself focusing more on the elegant contrapuntal lines, rather than harmonic blend.

A commissioned work for CMNZ was Gareth Farr’s Te Koanga. This contemporary 10-minute piece conjured a celebration of the outdoors, with diverse bird calls, written in memory of Wellington cellist and luthier Ian Lyons.

Violinist (Oliver Heath) opened with the most incredible instrumental New Zealand native bird calls I’ve heard, transporting the listener to kowhai trees in spring, before a variety of thematic statements kept a focus, until the return of the opening dawn chorus of tuis and bellbirds. 

Haydn’s String Quartet No.55 Op.71 No.2 began with a short Adagio but quickly moved to develop a fresh, sprightly-seasoned Haydn, almost Romantic in the lyrical passages, with an overall exhilarating delivery for this later work (1793), inspired by the vibrant artistic atmosphere of London.

The outstanding skill of four instrumentalists passing and receiving themes was displayed to perfection in the entire programme, but particularly so in the opening Allegro of String Quartet No.2 Op.36 by Benjamin Britten.

The final movement of this fascinating work, Chacony: sostenuto began with a chaconne-styled statement, released with incredible unison strength, then worked through many virtuosic variations and cadenzas before cumulating in a magnificently performed dramatic conclusion.


The Heath Quartet

Glenroy Auditorium, June 30

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