They see-sawed between the same note on different strings to make a sonic wobble, not unlike a croak in their crisp, fast-paced take on Haydn’s String Quartet in D Major Op 50 No 6, nicknamed The Frog.
Jörg Widmann pushes everything to the limit in his String Quartet No 3 The Hunt, which begins with the musicians whipping the air with their bows and whooping. The quartet then cantered with ease through the jaunty rhythms of the piece, evoking a grizzly hunt with their bows bouncing, thwacking and grinding on the strings. Gradually the dissonant undercurrent becomes more sinister, the glissandi more and more violent – somewhat alarming, given the priceless Italian instruments involved – until finally the cellist is cornered by the flicking bows. Widmann’s dramatic piece is one of only a handful of works by living composers in this year’s International Festival and surely makes a compelling case for more, not less, new music.
The quartet’s beautiful warm balanced tones were well-suited to Brahms’ edgy String Quartet No 3 in B flat, major Op 65 where the viola was at the heart of this thrilling and incisive account.