Concert Review

BEETHOVEN Quartet Cycle at The Space

The Archaeus Quartet Tuesday 14 September to Friday 1 October 1999

Now in its 10th year, this string quartet tours music clubs and arts centres in UK and abroad, and has appeared in many music festivals. Its members teach at Trinity College of Music in London and at Dartington Summer School. They have given the complete Beethoven quartets in Oxford and have a broad repertoire (try Minna Keal's string quartet on an interesting CD of her music, Life in Reverse, Lorelt LNT 110).

The Space (St Paul's Arts Centre) is a haven for the arts amidst the commercialism of the Isle of Dogs. A stylishly converted and modernised chapel, it is an ideal venue for chamber music, just the right size and with excellent acoustics. With a bar and restaurant upstairs, the concerts are given in candle-lit 'cabaret' surroundings, with drinks at the tables. The atmosphere is informal and each quartet was introduced with brief, interesting 'spoken programme notes' by members of the quartet. It was suggested to us that the earlier quartets were addressed to the thriving community of amateur chamber music players, intended for their own pleasure at home. Beethoven's middle period quartets took the string quartet out into the concert hall for the first time. The last quartets were far beyond the comprehension of audiences of the time, and were intended 'for an audience consisting of Beethoven himself'!

On 14 September they gave Op 18 Nos. 2 & 5, with a powerful account of Op 59 No. 2. Not over glossy, nor with the CD-like perfection to which some virtuoso quartets aspire, these were good, straightforward performances, faithful to the scores, given by musicians who knew the music inside out and have developed perfect unanimity through long experience together.

An excellent evening and in many ways preferable to the very different experience of this music to be encountered in larger concert halls. Twice a week until the end of the month, with each programme balanced instead of a chronological approach, I recommend visiting The Space to catch some of The Archaeus Quartet's other appearances (details from 0171 515 7799).

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