Haydn and Beethoven

CHRISTOPHER SMITH King of Hearts, Norwich


Cheerful, not to say chirpy, Haydn's Opus 7, No 1 opened this recital by the Merchant String Quartet with a certain sense of balance, even in its high spirits. At every turn the music was inventive. Time and again greater complexities followed where other composers might well have been content to rest their case.

What was true of the first movement, with its Allegro characteristically also marked "moderato", applied to the Adagio as well. At the opening, it almost gave the impression of searching for ideas.

In fact, Haydn almost fooled us into thinking he had shot his bolt when what appeared to be an ending was nothing other than the springboard for further explora-tions. Next came a Menuet with more of a bustle than many, to be followed by a fast finale that relieved every tension.

Next, the accomplished quartet turned to Beethoven. In his Opus 95 Quartet they showed contrasts between his habitual agitated manner and the moment when he allowed us a glimpse of serenity.

The part-writing left the cello line exposed at some crucial stages but, nothing daunted, the players threw themselves into the mood, to stir us all in this lunchtime concert that oddly succeeded in providing thrills and relaxation at one and the same time.