The Brompton's Recitals present the Heath Quartet
A new chamber music series was launched last night at London's Royal Institution in Albermarle Street. Under the aegis of Brompton's, the UK and Europe's leading auctioneers of musical instruments, the Brompton's Recitals will present chamber music in the acoustically appealing setting of the RI's lecture theatre (familiar to those of us of a certain age as the venue for the annual Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for children and often delivered by the inimitable Prof Heinz Wolff, a wonderfully eccentric German-born scientist who couldn't have been invented by Central Casting: he was the real thing!). These 'rush hour' concerts start at 6.30pm so you can tack them onto the end of your working day and still have the evening free. Do look out for the next one.
The RI's lovely amphitheatre has had a bit of make-over since those 1960s TV broadcasts - the seating is now decked out in cerise fabric and, I suspect, is a lot more comfortable. And it's a superbly intimate setting for a string quartet, as the Heath Quartet proved in a recital of just over an hour's length that twinned two less-often-heard quartets by Haydn (his Op 20 No 3) and Tchaikovsky (No 3).
A very mixed audience - with lots of 20-somethings – was treated to some classy playing. The Heath gave us all the wit and mercurial inventiveness you'd expect from Haydn and they played with a really engaging sense of interplay and they didn't overprotect in this ideal space. It was lovely to hear playing that had a genuine intimacy about it.
The Tchaikovsky Third Quartet is a gem and really should be heard more often. It seems to capture the complexity of Tchaikovsky's character: one minute light and skittish, the next deeply pained and anguished. And the Heath got under its skin – there are moments throughout the work that almost sound like a heart beating and such was the intensity of their playing I could feel mine beating too. It was a wonderfully rewarding experience and I'm off to dig out a few recordings from the Gramophone library! And I shall certainly be looking out for more from the Heath Quartet, they're clearly a group with a big future (and a busy one judging by their website's calendar). And it's nice to see four musicians who utterly dispel the idea that classical music is somehow backward looking or fogey-ish: they look good too!
James Jolly is Gramophone's Editor-in-Chief. After four years of co-presenting BBC Radio 3's weekday morning programme "Classical Collection" has moved to Sunday mornings, with Rob Cowan his fellow presenter; he also hosts some Saturday afternoon shows. His blogs will explore live and recorded music, as well as downloading and digital delivery.