TITLE: Henschel String Quartet
VENUE: St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield
BY: Chris Robins
THE quartet arrived from four different European locations with snow travellers’ tales to tell, and an audience – about 20% of the usual fulsome number – slid and skidded in for Huddersfield Music Society’s concert.
The snow problems were so bad it was a miracle anyone turned up at all. The second miracle was the performance.
The Henschels have a big European-style tone – sonorous, sustained, flexible, muscular, devastatingly in tune, capable of delicacy. They are perfect.
The programme was to have begun with Haydn’s F major Op. 74 Quartet and ended with Beethoven’s F major Op. 135 – their uncanny similar use of simple themes, unisons and development techniques separated by Beethoven’s more conventional, rumbustious and lyrical third Rasumovsky Quartet in the middle.
At the last minute, the Henschels reversed the order of the Beethovens. A mistake, I think.
However, the playing was beyond comparison.
Haydn’s strange monothematic first movement, folksy third movement minuet and amazingly minimalist finale were shown to us as never before by the Henschels.
The ‘oneness’ Beethoven achieves in his final Quartet Op. 135, the resolution of all his life’s experience in profound simplicity, were beyond the power of words to describe in the hands of the Henschels.
For the first time I understood T S Eliot’s description of Beethoven’s intention:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
After that performance, the Rasumovsky was equally well played, but paled into insignificance!