Theatre by the Lake – Review by Steve Matthews of Brompton Quartet playing Haydn, Mozart, Shostakovich

“The Haydn’s bonkers,” said Edward Keenan, the viola player in The Brompton Quartet. And he was right. The playful, agitated, quizzical, quirky questioning of the opening phrases of Haydn’s String Quartet in C major set the pattern for the music that followed, uncertain, fragmentary, teasing but taking us on a journey that led to the final sublime adagio. Maya Horvat on the first violin played a resonant simple melody against the resonant arpeggios from the cellist, Wallis Power.

The individuality of each player was evident as they explored the rich chromaticism of the opening Allegro in Mozart’s ‘Spring’ Quartet. The Menuetto echoed Haydn’s playfulness before the first violin revealed the beautiful sadness to be found in the Andante Cantabile. The quartet concluded with the rich complexities of the Molto Allegro played with a truly Mozartian verve and delicacy.
The second half of the concert opened with Caroline Shaw’s Entr’acte, a piece composed some twelve years ago. It had its own uncertainty and restlessness derived from Haydn, each instrument repeating the motif in multiple timbres until it almost disappeared in an almost mute scratching of the strings before the cello explored a more positive, appealing shape as though, at last we had arrived.

If Haydn’s quartet was bonkers than Shostakovich’s Quartet no. 9 was almost demented, a wild, ferocious piece of a man finding himself against the agony of the world. The five continuous movements had an ease of self expression but there was something disturbed, fragmentary about it, bits of tunes, motifs from William Tell, until we were drawn into the wild energy of a polka before the ferocious defiance of the long final Allegro.

The Brompton Quartet were a delight to listen to. All four players – the second violin, was played by Esther Park – played with individuality and vitality and yet there was such a lively creative conversation between the instruments.
And the Shostakovich left the players – and the audience – almost exhausted.