Music review: Thank goodness for the volunteers at Leamington Music - we have live music back in the town

Here is Clive Peacock's review of Elias String Quartet Double Bill

Friday, 9th October 2020, 5:12 pm
Updated Friday, 9th October 2020, 5:16 pm
Elias String Quartet Double Bill.






Thanks to the enormous efforts of a team of volunteers and exceptional vision by the organisers, Leamington Music relaunched the International String Quartet series last Friday with support from sponsor, Margaret Goode.

Holy Trinity Church had been transformed in a successful attempt to meet every one of Covid 19’s social-distancing requirements. The double bill by the exceptional Elias String Quartet, rewarded the two audiences with contrasting programmes. The first was a clever chronological reminder of how the quartet genre developed, from Purcell’s 17th century Two Fantasias (1680) via the “father of the string quartet” Haydn and his E flat Opus 64 No 6 (1790), to Britten’s 20th century Quartet No 3, Opus 94, his last work. Many in the audience fondly remembered the Elias performance of Britten’s Quartet No 2, Opus 36 in February 2019 at the Pump Room. Viola player, Simone van der Giessen, admitted “Britten’s Quartets 2 and 3 are pieces we adore and we play them as often as we can”.

Beethoven’s Quartet in E flat, Opus 127 (1825), the main event of the second concert, begins with a remarkable brace of bold, emphatic chords. This was the signal the audience needed to hear to realise the programme order had been reversed. Grant’s settings of Scottish Folk Music would complete the evening.

Those Beethoven bold chords interrupt the opening bars three times before the movement settles into a period of graceful interplay. The attractive charm of the Elias team showed itself in the beautiful slow movement, with Marie Bitlloch’s metronomic cello playing reflecting the composer’s troubled tale of sadness at this time in his life, and not just his health.

Having recently spent time in Snape and nearby Aldeburgh, Elias members were fired up for their performance of one of their most favoured of Britten’s Quartets, No 3, his last work, a very moving piece deserving of the long pause at the close before audience applause. The work demonstrated the full range of colours the quartet creates, plus beguiling lyricism from Marie Bitlloch’s cello in the last movement.

Second violinist, David Grant, hails from the Highlands and delights in immersing himself in Scottish traditional music. Elias played three special adaptations and in so doing reminded many in the audience of the sad loss of this year’s Warwick Folk Festival. Thank goodness for the volunteers at Leamington Music; we have live music back in the town.

Review by Clive Peacock