Juliet String Quartet

Seen on 28 April 2015 @ Beethoven Room, Rhodes University, Grahamstown

Somewhere in a court room in the 18th century the audience waits in eager expectation of what is to come. Then the music starts. With elegance and graciousness the first String Quartet in C Major Op. 20, No. 2 enfolds. The gentleness beams from the faces of the musicians. Imagine the white wigs and black ribbons and the courteous knee bending and greeting and you are with us in the Moderato of Haydn’s beautiful work performed by the Juliet String Quartet. The heavy strokes of the Adaggio, remind the savouring audience that less frivolous moods still so exist. The changing of the times, sadness and a sense of loss is contemplated in the chamber that is already on the edge of its seat. Played with precision and a beautiful sense of harmony the movement continues through Sturm und Drang and ends with a splendid Allegro. The expressivity that Patrick Goodwin (violin), Annien Shaw (violin), Emile de Roubaix (viola) and Babette Roosenschoon (cello) offer are electrifying.

Repetitive short motives that are subtly changed hallmark the minimalistic String Quartet No 3 (Mimshima) intensify another sensitive spectrum in the music of Philip Glass. Sounds of a childhood in awe and mystery resound in 1957: Award Montage and November 25: Ichigaya. This score for a film about the life of a Japanese novelist Mishima plays with a restricted sound palette hinting to the mysteries in one’s psyche and end as strangely as life often happens.

From minimalism we tur to a full blast exploration of different sound landscapes, marked by colour and timbre in the opening of Maretha van der Walt’s String Quartet No. 1. This South-African composed the work in 2010. In one movement the beauty intensifies and touches the whole scale that stringed instruments are able to do together, igniting even the Russian soul. At other moments the music turns contemplative and ends with a solemn silence that leaves the audience bedazzled. A wonderfully extravagant speed of fingers dancing along the strings.

Close your eyes and unbeknown your immediate thought would go out to Mozart when the Juliet String Quartet moves through the last piece. A spirited first movement that displays the youthful playfulness and light-heartedness of a Mozart but that for some reason sounds more mature. It was his contemporary Robert Schumann who recognized Mendelsohn’s indebtedness to Mozart. The second movement of Mendelsohn’s String Quartet in D major Opus 44 No.1 has one dreaming while the 1st violin explores its whole register and the rest of the quartet gently lays a harmonious foundation. Attuning the ear to its grace and clarity becomes effortless. The Andante ad the Presto continue that search for beauty and harmony.

A warm, heartfelt evening at the Beethoven room when winter seems still far away.