The impressive RTE Vanbrugh Quartet returned to Waterford with a wonderful, but sad, recital at Garter Lane last Saturday. Their programme presented late work from Mendelssoh, Janacek and Beethoven shortly before each died, and there was a pathos in the work that was interesting but sad.
Opening with the last Beethoven String Quartet, you were very aware that he had composed this by hearing the music only in his head, due to his loss of hearing. You could sense tunes dancing in his head for two movements before the Lento cut into you with a deep brooding cello and the music was like a funeral cortege taking a breather before proceeding up a long graveyard.
This darkened my mood and as I had been reading Mother’s Day Letters in The Guardian (I don’t miss you like I thought I would but I think of you every day). A four movement had familiar and dramatic bars of music before the intensity became passive then dancing and dancing.
The Janacek Kreutzer Quartet was randy and rueful written at a time when he loved a much younger married woman. It seemed full of short bursts of passion, then regret in tranquillity. You could persuade yourself there was loss and urgency, love and jealousy and the last movement was a plaintive lament. II have no memory of ever being with you, but I feel a powerful connection to you, from a girl who was given up for adoption by her mother).
After the interval the Mendelssohn String Quartet had two busy movements before the Adagio was set by a foreboding cello and strong feelings of loss and loneliness. (But why did you send me to an English boarding school at the age of eight?) The Finale was a wail of despair and the cello conducted a post-mortem on my heart.
The Vanbrugh are Christopher Marwood (cello), Keith Pasco (violin), Gregory Ellis (violin) and Simon Aspell (viola).