St. Lawrence String Quartet at Wigmore Hall – Haydn & Beethoven

String Quartet in D, Op.71/2
String Quartet in C, Op.59/3 (Razumovsky)

St. Lawrence String Quartet [Geoff Nuttall & Scott St John (violins), Lesley Robertson (viola) & Christopher Costanza (cello)]

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 18 March, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

St. Lawrence String Quartet. Photograph: slsq.comPerhaps surprisingly, just thirteen years separate the dates of composition of the two works in this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert, and they made a bright and largely fulfilling pairing thanks to energetic performances from the St. Lawrence String Quartet. However a little less ‘stepping on the gas’ from the Canadian ensemble would have benefited the outer movements of the Haydn: the finale became rather too aggressive when it moved in to the minor key. The first movement also felt too eager. Elsewhere this was a performance that charmed, moving from a plaintive introduction to a brightly coloured Allegro and enjoying a skip in the step throughout the Minuet. The Adagio was the emotional centre of the performance, its song beautifully observed by Geoff Nuttall in particular, and with an easy charm between the four players. Repeats were not observed, which was a shame.

The third of Beethoven’s ‘Razumovsky’ string quartets received a very busy performance, and there was considerable drama in the dissonant introduction. The St. Lawrence musicians went heavy on each one, then light on their resolution. There was an improvisatory feel to Nuttall’s violin line once the Allegro took hold, and his tuning in the upper register sometimes suffered because of this, but the mood was ideally judged. Christopher Costanza’s pronounced pizzicato was the main feature of the Andante, while the Minuet followed Beethoven’s marking of grazioso to the letter. Lesley Robertson led off the finale’s fugue at a confident but daringly fast tempo, setting the pace for an extremely quick burst of contrapuntal activity, the notes leaping off the page but scrambling for definition – Nuttall almost left his seat on occasion as the intensity gathered, but the performance was genuinely thrilling, completely negating the need for an encore.

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