The concert opened with arrangements of three Bach chorale preludes, a lovely, gentle, refined opener to the concert. Bach’s counterpoint, so harmonic in its construction, was beautifully revealed by the four musicians.
Next was the new work by Gareth Farr, Te Koanga which means ‘Spring’ or ‘Planting Season’ and includes wonderful birdsong throughout.
This piece was written in memory of Ian Lyons, a cellist and luthier in Wellington, much-loved by string players.
As well as loving music Ian enjoyed the outdoors and the piece, which the composer describes as a joyous celebration of the things important to him, has a strong sense of the New Zealand outdoors, bush and birds.
It’s episodic, with a strong and cheeky rhythmic section, for instance and more conventionally bowed sections which delight in the sounds of string instruments. It’s very effective with a big range of colour, style and effect.
The first half of the programme ended with Haydn’s String Quartet No 55 in D major, opus 71 No 2.
The Heath Quartet stand to play (like our own NZSQ) and there is a lot of physical and musical flexibility and a wonderfully conversational approach which works perfectly for Haydn.
Their sound is bright and extrovert and in spite of the MFC acoustics there was never a moment where the sound was not big enough.
They brought a lot of a lot of character and variety to Haydn’s music and a witty, fun-loving approach.
Britten’s moving String Quartet no 2 in C Major Opus 36 concluded the programme.
The playing by the Heath Quartet was outstanding throughout and as dramatic as the work requires.
The third movement particularly impressed and demonstrated the fine leadership of first violinist Oliver Heath.
This is a profound work with deep feelings – Britten was opposed to the war and deeply affected by it and the Heath Quartet ended here, without breaking the mood with an encore.