String Quartet in E flat, Op.74 (Harp)
Meditation on an old Bohemian Chorale (St Wenceslas), Op.35a
String Quartet No.3
Ehnes Quartet [James Ehnes & Amy Schwartz Moretti (violins), Richard O’Neill (viola) & Robert deMaine (cello)]
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 10 February, 2014
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
The inclusion of a relative rarity from Josef Suk (1874-1935, father of the violinist) was welcome. The Meditation on an old Bohemian Chorale has been compared to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, for it has a similar emotional pull without – in the right performance – overdoing things. The Ehnes musicians gave a thoughtful account, revealing Suk’s pain and anguish at the onset of the First World War. The muted theme was led by Richard O’Neill’s mellow but rather mournful viola, while an extended period of clouded reflection towards the end gave way to sunlight.
There followed a technically impressive performance of Bartók’s one-movement Third String Quartet, superbly brought off, the all-important rhythms and syncopations executed with precision, with fluctuations of pace natural and logical, the dance rhythms swayed persuasively, and the tunes placed above preserving rusticity. The insect-like figurations of the night-time music were fascinating, and the furtive scrapes of bows near bridges were carefully effective. The swirling figurations as the piece approached its end had complete unity.