For the third concert in their series “From Vienna to Moscow”, the Carducci Quartet performed works by Schubert, Beethoven and Shostakovich. St Alkmund’s Church was the perfect venue for what has proved to be a triumph for Shropshire Music Trust; it has been a wonderful return to live music after too long a break.
First we heard Schubert’s 10th String Quartet. This delightful music by a teenage prodigy looked back to the quartets of Haydn and shows how, from an early age, Schubert had a remarkable talent for writing glorious melodies. This gave the musicians an instant opportunity to display their formidable talents for they always play as one. Their sounds are perfectly matched to each other, their dynamics and niceties of phrasing as well as the choices of tempi identify them as musicians of the very highest calibre, so the Schubert was a performance of sheer delight.
The quartets by Beethoven and Shostakovich are works of relentless intensity, each with occasional moments of spiritual calm, each equally with moments of awe-inspiring tension and ferocious delivery. They are also dense, compressed works and are capable of making rapid changes in their emotional impact on the listener.
The Beethoven, Op95 in F minor, known as the Quartetto Seriosa, looks forward to the strange, challenging world of Beethoven’s last quartets; its second and third movements mix moments of exquisite lyricism with the density of expression of the later quartets. The sound of Emma Denton’s cello was glorious and was matched perfectly by the violins of Matthew Denton and Michelle Fleming and the viola of Eoin Schmidt-Martin.
Oliver Sachs said: “Music imprints itself in the brain deeper than any other human experience”. It would be hard to plan a concert to more brilliantly illustrate this view than this selection of string quartets. The final work, Quartet No. 9 by Shostakovich, is simply brilliant. The five movements flow into each other; four of them are slow and have moments of religious intensity while there are also brief references to Jewish Klezmer music. Indeed, it was easy to imagine those moments played on a soprano saxophone!
Although the Beethoven and Shostakovich quartets are separated by about a century and a half, the inclusion of the two was a piece of inspired programme planning; it gave us an evening of unforgettable music which will live long in the memory.