There were few common threads running between the three chamber works presented by the Heath Quartet, each from a different century, which created an overall sense of disconnectedness in this programme for the New Town Concerts Society.
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Mozart’s String Quartet in E flat major is the third of six dedicated to Haydn, the king of quartets at the time, famous for his wit and lightness of touch. There is plenty of both in Mozart’s quartet, but this was not always evident in the Heath’s mundane and often laboured interpretation.
There was more integrity to the group’s performance of Alban Berg’s beguiling and emotionally engaging String Quartet Op 3. Here, romanticism is seduced by atonality, but curiously the work has more in common with Mozart than Mendelssohn. The ghosts of other composers waft through the ethereal textures, including Berg’s teacher, Schoenberg, and Schumann – Berg wrote this quartet on the centenary of his birth.
The Heath Quartet were joined by the Alban Berg Quartet’s violist, Isabel Charisius, for Mendelssohn’s String Quintet No 2 in B flat, a reworking of his Octet for strings written in his youth. This was a more sure-footed performance from the high-octane first movement, which powers the whole quintet, through the quirky scherzando and elegiac adagio to the spirited finale.