In the nine years since the Wihan String Quartet performed in the Shropshire Music Trust concert series the ensemble has gone from strength to strength winning awards and accolades not only in their native Prague but around the world. The Trust presented a concert on 15 November by the Wihan in the Lion Hotel Ballroom, Shrewsbury which could well have been titled ‘A Musical Journey through time and space.’
They are undoubtedly masters of the classical repertoire ancient and modern but are especially effective with works from their own region – Czech republic, Moravia and the mysterious Transylvania.
The opening work Haydn’s quartet Op54 No 1, written in the depths of modern Hungary, set the tone with the composer’s customary lively and quirky approach to local dance rhythms played with classical elegance by Wihan.
Rather more serious was Josef Suk’s Quartet Op 11 No 1 written in 1896 a century later. A complex work, reminiscent of Brahms from a slightly earlier era but with pointers towards styles to come, the beauty of tone of Wihan and absolute unity of purpose among the players made this a much more approachable composition than might have been expected.
These were but an introduction to Janacek’s ‘Intimate Letters’ Quartet No 2. Unashamedly Bohemian and written essentially as musical love letters there was considerable emphasis on the viola part representing Janacek’s unrequited lover played beautifully, strongly and sensitively by Jakub Cepicky. Wihan were total masters in this work with the technical difficulties built in by the composer brushed aside as irrelevant to the overall passionate performance.