MENDELSSOHN STRING QUARTETS

Consone Quartet

The Guildhall, Portsmouth
Monday 26 February 2024, 7.30pm

Tickets:

£10 – £20

Book Tickets

HAYDN String Quartet in D Op.64, No.5 ‘Lark’ (20’)
FANNY HENSEL-MENDELSSOHN String Quartet in E flat (22′)
FELIX MENDELSSOHN String Quartet in E minor Op.44, No.2 (32′)

The electrifying Consone Quartet, recent BBC New Generation Artists, comprises four sensitive and spirited musicians who have formed a dynamic ensemble prized for expressive interpretations of classical and romantic repertoire through historically informed performance.

One of Haydn’s most popular quartets opens this concert, featuring a soaring bird-like part for violin which earned the piece its Lark nickname. The evening also contrasts the music of both Mendelssohn siblings: Fanny’s raw, passionate and tempestuous quartet, the only one she published, and Felix’s stately, lyrical and deftly crafted E minor quartet.

There will be a post-show Q&A with the artists and Colin Jagger of Portsmouth Chamber Music.

Series Discount: 20% discount if you book any 6 or more Portsmouth Chamber Music/Sounds of Now concerts.

Time advertised is the start time, please check your ticket for door time.

Time displayed is start time.

HAYDN Joseph, String Quartet in D Op.64, No.5 ‘Lark’

It was the soaring violin theme at the start of the first movement which gave this quartet its nickname, in a movement which wears its learning lightly, transforming the main melody in inventive ways right up to its final appearance. The hymn-like Adagio cantabile (with a contrasting minor-key central section) is followed by a Minuet which combines the feeling of a rustic dance with sophisticated motivic development. The finale is an exciting virtuoso display with almost continuous activity, but also some ingenious elements of contrast (such as the passage where the rushing main idea is treated fugally). 

 

Composed in 1790, Haydn’s Op.64 quartets were the earliest to receive their premieres at public concerts rather than at intimate gatherings of connoisseurs, and the finale of The Lark must have electrified its large audience – and delighted the composer himself: at the invitation of Johann Peter Salomon, Haydn arrived in England on New Year’s Day 1791 and remained there for the next 18 months. When the Quartets were published by the London firm of John Bland in June 1791, the title page announced that they had been ’composed by Giuseppe Haydn and perform’d under his direction at Mr Salomon’s concert, the Festino Rooms, Hanover Square’.  

 

© Nigel Simeone 

HENSEL-MENDELSSOHN Fanny, String Quartet in E flat

In the last couple of decades, the increasing interest in Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn’s music has demonstrated beyond doubt that her brother Felix was not the only member of the family with extraordinary gifts. 

 

Fanny’s only String Quartet dates from 1834 but has its origins in an earlier piano sonata from 1829. That was never completed but its first two movements were reworked as the Adagio and Scherzo of the present quartet which was given its first performance at her Berlin salon in 1834. The formal freedom of this quartet is one of its most remarkable features, beginning with an intense, fantasia-like Adagio that begins in C minor before gradually working towards the home key of E flat by the end of the movement. The Scherzo in C minor, with a Trio section in C major, has something an elfin quality, whereas the following Romanze is a deeply-felt movement that shifts between G minor and major with some surprising detours into remote keys. The finale is a Rondo whose main theme (in tumbling thirds on the violins) dominates this movement, an exciting moto perpetuo. 

 

© Nigel Simeone 

MENDELSSOHN Felix, String Quartet in E minor Op.44, No.2

The last of Felix Mendelssohn’s string quartets was composed in August–September 1847 at Interlaken, a few months after the death of his sister, Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn. Written as an instrumental Requiem in her memory, it was completed shortly before Mendelssohn’s own death. The first movement is defiant and agitated, while the Scherzo is most unlike Mendelssohn’s usual Scherzo style: this is earnest, dark and intense music. The deeply-felt Adagio is the emotional heart of the work, and the movement that is most obviously elegiac in character. The uneasy start of the finale, marked by syncopations and trills, finds moments of lyricism (including some self-quotations) as well as outbursts of anger. Few works in Mendelssohn’s output are so personal, and so overtly emotional. Though Mendelssohn heard the work played privately, the first public performance took place after his death. It was given in Leipzig by a quartet led by Joseph Joachim at a memorial concert on 4 November 1848 – the first anniversary of Mendelssohn’s death.  

 

© Nigel Simeone