A month today at the Snape Proms… Pavel Haas Quartet with Klára Würtz
So much of the fun of a great string quartet concert is in seeing and hearing the players listen and respond to each other. There are great quartets who’ve played together for decades and who respond to each other almost imperceptibly. And then there are groups like the Pavel Haas Quartet whose young players almost bubble over with the urgency and dynamism of their interaction – you could probably take away the sound and still enjoy just watching them perform for the rhythm and patterns of eye contact and body movement, the subtle physical ways in which musicians tell each other exactly how much a quickening will accelerate and exactly how much longer an accented note will last than an unaccented one.
And then there’s the sound… At this year’s Aldeburgh Festival the Pavel Haas gave two concerts of Czech music – quartets by Janáček and Smetana – and no matter how much of a cliché it sounds, it was impossible not to come away with the impression that these outstanding Czech and Slovak players really are able to get to the heart of the music of their homeland. Smetana’s Bohemian dances sounded wilder and more like East European folk than I remember hearing them before. And along with great energy, intimacy and warmth, Janáček’s two quartets buzzed with an electric tension – although the playing was note perfect, it was as if the music were being played for the first time, with the narrative and the drama raw and developing in front of the audience in real time, with the outcome never preordained.
It will be great to see the Pavel Haas Quartet back here at the end of August with pianist Klára Würtz to play the music of a third major Czech composer, Dvořak. And as is the way at Aldeburgh Music, the musicians won’t just be flying in, giving a concert and leaving, but instead working with Britten-Pears Young Artists over a series of masterclasses (30 August – 5 September), passing on their insights into the music to a (slightly) younger generation of musicians.