Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Belcea Quartet at the Sage Gateshead

An excellent demonstration was made of the first- rate quality of the Sage Gateshead's acoustic by the Belcea Quartet on Wednesday 21 st March. High quality strong playing is familiar in this venue where Thomas Zehtmair often leads  the Northern Sinfonia from the violin. Very fine recordings are also made by this partnership here. This concert though featured the visiting London-based Belcea Quartet, who performed a selection of Beethoven's string quartets, part of a cycle which is making a multi-city tour in both the UK and Europe. There are dates in Italy, Germany and Austria as well as England, giving the Quartet a busy touring schedule (further details on their own website). Particularly fine was No 15 in A minor (Op132), known as the 'Holy Song of Thanks' because Beethoven wrote it whilst convalescing from a serious illness, which closed the concert. The lengthy slow third movement was short of superlative and brought to silence a capacity audience.

Preceding this were No 1 in F (Op18/1), a relatively early work in a brisk and lively style, and No 9 in C (op59/3), one of the Rasumovsky series – a series which in my opinion are some of Beethoven's most satisying, balanced and interesting quartets. Its very haunting andante section of the second movement was a highlight.

This performance reminds the listener that the Sage is arguably the UK's acoustically finest concert hall north of Birmingham and furthermore showcases exceptional playing of these important and substantial works. The Belceas are also in the process of making a set of live recordings of the complete Beethoven Quartets at Snape Maltings which from this showing is a release to be eagerly awaited.

by Juliet Williams

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