Hugh Wood – Fifth Quartet

String Quartet in F, Op.77/2
String Quartet No.5 (Persistence works)
String Quartet in F, Op.135

Lindsay Quartet

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 12 July, 2002
Venue: Cheltenham Festival

The unavailability of the Takacs Quartet for this morning recitalbrought The Lindsays in their stead, and an unexpected but welcome revival of Hugh Wood’s Fifth Quartet. In his pre-performance chat, the composer explained the subtitle, ’Persistence works’, as a reference to the building of a new concert hall – against the odds – in Sheffield, where the quartet was premiered in October last year. It might also be felt to apply to Wood himself, on account of his tenacious and productive adherence to ’traditional’ forms over the course of his output.

After a compact but imposing sonata-type opening movement, the first of two scherzos pursues an oblique and capricious course – its antecedents in Schoenberg and Bartók teasingly in evidence. The central ’Romanza’ is a flowing slow movement, markedly less weighty than the ’Adagio’ of his previous quartet, but not lacking in sustained emotion. The largely pizzicato second scherzo consolidated the connection with Bartók’s Fourth Quartet, leading to a bracing rondo-finale, which counterbalances the first movement with duly symmetrical poise.

No doubt about the Lindsays commitment in reviving the latest instalment of Wood’s quartet odyssey – deserving frequent performance in this, his 70th-birthday year. Surrounded by forthright and typically risqué accounts of Haydn’s Op.77/2 and Beethoven’s Op.135, and with the Cavatina from Op.130 as an encore (!), this added up to an engrossing and often inspiring concert.

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