This was an autumnal and, at times, sombre feeling to the opening concert in the Large Room, City Hall for the 68th Waterford Music Season or the 538th Concert. The RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet chose a Russian theme and a bit of Haydn to show their virtuosity.
I was surprised that entrance was not through the gallery foyer of the Theatre Royal and that the gallery wasn’t accessible to concert patrons.
There was a sense of welcome back to old friends and some seemed slower of pace and greyer of face but the personal committee welcome was heartening and friendly.
Haydn’s The Bird set the scene with a hippity hoppity tunefulness of the opening, Allegro, in that brisk and airy style we now call Mozartean. A short Scherzo was really a minuet, or as a famous critic quipped – a minuet by any other name would be a well done steak. The well-known Adagio established a sad autumnal tone, a hymnal or reflection on the turning of the year. It was a mixture of shivers and mellowness. A shiver, to pull closer to the fire, or snuggle up with a bird, a babe or a brandy. A mellowness of boudoir biscuits dipped in liquor and a thankfulness to be among friends.
A brisk Rondo invited people to shake off such reverie and celebrate, the good things of the year.
Then it was into a Russian soiree from a selection known as Les Vendredis, from private, Friday night chamber music sessions in devotees houses. A Rimsky-Korsakov, Allegro was pensive with a sense of longing while a Borodin Scherzo in D was brisk and expressive.
After the interval, a Tchaikovsky String Quartet No. 3 was brooding, powerful, melancholic and sombre. Written in memory of a dead friend, the violinist, Ferdinand Laub, it had strong violin passages and at times a restless turbulent symphonic sound. A lively Allegretto only kept the mood at bay as the tormented Third Movement, the sad heart of music for a graveside with rain falling.
Yet it was a virtuoso performance, but the mood darkened too much for me, and the weeping and wailing of strings sent me home more pensive than I needed.