Arcadia Quartet

The Guildhall, Portsmouth
Monday 20 March 2023, 7.30pm

£10 – £20

Past Event

HAYDN Quartet in B-flat Op.33 No.4
WEINBERG String Quartet No.6 Op.35
BEETHOVEN Quartet in F Op.59 No.1

We were due to host the Romanian-based Arcadia Quartet in March 2021 before the continuing disruption caused by the pandemic intervened, and so we will finally get to hear them exactly two years later.

They won the Wigmore Hall competition in 2012, and then five years later produced a remarkable set of recordings of the Bartók quartets which led to their invitation to Portsmouth. A more recent recording project is the complete cycle of 17 quartets by Mieczysław Weinberg, a close friend of Shostakovich who deserves to be far better known.

HAYDN Joseph, Quartet in B flat Op.33 No.4

Allegro moderato
Scherzo. Allegretto – Minore


Haydn’s Opus 33 quartets, also known as the “Russian” quartets, are a collection of six string quartets composed in 1781. These works represent a significant milestone in the development of the string quartet as a genre, and they are widely regarded as Haydn’s finest compositions.


This quartet in B flat major opens with a vibrant and exuberant Allegro moderato showcasing Haydn’s signature humour and wit, with playful exchanges between the four instruments. The Scherzo is a lively and rhythmic dance that is full of energy and syncopation. The Adagio is a poignant and expressive, aria-like movement that showcases Haydn’s gift for melody and his ability to evoke deep emotion through music. The quartet concludes with a dazzling and virtuosic finale, that brings the work to an exhilarating conclusion. Throughout the quartet, Haydn’s use of form and inventive musical ideas play with tonality, harmonic structure and texture to create a rich and complex musical tapestry. The quartet is marked by surprise, unexpected turns, and humour, while maintaining a sense of coherence and unity. Haydn’s Opus 33 No.4 is a landmark in the development of the genre: a work of great beauty, depth, and complexity.


© Nigel Simeone

WEINBERG Mieczysław, String Quartet Op.6 No.35

Allegro semplice
Presto agitato
Allegro con fuoco
Moderato commodo
Andante maestoso


Weinberg’s String Quartet No. 6 is a powerful and deeply expressive work that showcases the composer’s distinctive voice. Weinberg was a Polish-Jewish composer who spent much of his career in the Soviet Union, and his music reflects both the rich cultural heritage of his homeland and the tumultuous times in which he lived. Composed in 1946, this quartet is one of Weinberg’s most accomplished works in the genre.


A powerful work consisting of six movements, it opens with forceful and energetic driving rhythms followed by a frenzied and virtuosic movement, with rapid, intricate passages. The soaring melodies of the fiery and intense third movement contain dramatic changes in tempo and dynamics which give way to the Adagio, an expressive and introspective movement marked by a lyrical and mournful melody passed between the instruments of the quartet. The fifth movement is more lighthearted and whimsical, before the final Andante maestoso, which brings the work to a triumphant, majestic conclusion.


© Nigel Simeone

BEETHOVEN Ludwig Van, Quartet in F, Op.59 No.1

Allegretto vivace e sempre scherzando
Adagio molto e mesto –
Thème Russe. Allegro
The first of Beethoven’s three quartets written for Prince Rasumovsky was composed in 1806 and performed the next year. It marks a departure from the Op.18 set in several respects, one of which is its sheer scale: like the “Eroica” Symphony (1804–5) it shows Beethoven expanding the possibilities of the form to produce something on an epic scale while retaining the essential intimacy of a string quartet.
The first movement is introduced by a cello theme which Lewis Lockwood describes as “opening up a musical space of seemingly unbounded lyricism and breadth.” The Scherzo, in B flat major, is an unsual movement: while it has no distinct Trio section, it is also Beethoven’s longest Scherzo to date, even though Beethoven removed a large repeat while revising the work. The slow movement has the unusual marking mesto – “mournful” – and is cast in the tragic key of F minor. It ends on a trill that leads seamlessly into the finale. This is based on a Russian theme – a charming and appropriate choice since Rasumovsky was the Russian Ambassador to Vienna at the time.


© Nigel Simeone