Magazine article Musical Opinion

Emerson String Quartet at the Wigmore

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Emerson String Quartet at the Wigmore

Article excerpt

The string quartet is the essential medium of Beethoven's final years. His series of late Quartets began, as the Emerson Quartet started on 18 March at the Wigmore Hall, with Opus 127 and finished with Opus 135, which they played that same night.

Maybe the most complex and surely the most inclusive of all these pieces is Opus 131, with which the Emersons ended their first programme. Beethoven is said to have regarded this as his greatest score and the first movement, rendered with a severe purity on this occasion, is completely thematic in even the tiniest detail. The augmented second in the theme, never unduly stressed by the Emersons, still lends the harmony a striking inner tension, even if the music remains smoothly vocal. Only in the final 'Allegro did the players' projection of spiritual turmoil allow us to grasp the struggle that gave rise to Opus 13 Is initial painful serenity.

Before this the Emersons had given us the final Quartet, Opus 135, a work that is shorter and seems more orthodox than the other late Quartets. But the Allegretto is a concentrated instance of Beethoven's method of motivic generation, the music coming into being as we hear it. The succeeding Vivace seems Beethovenian middle-period rhetoric yet reduced to epigrams, the Emersons vividly rarefying the tonal surprises of the music's tenuous imagery. Earlier, as noted, had come Opus 127, whose four-movement structure seems almost conventional even if the mysterious Adagio comes second. This latter had a particularly searching performance from the players. There is here, and elsewhere in these Quartets, also a tendency to emphasise contrasts, this sometimes leading to a misunderstanding of Opus 127's Scherzando vivace, an idea used to even stronger effect in the Assai sostenuto-Allegro of Opus 132, which opened the Emersons' second concert on 19 March. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.