Bandstand Chamber Festival and St John's Waterloo present:
CAVATINA Chamber Music Trust (sponsors of Community Tickets scheme)
The Neville Abraham Foundation
The Carne Trust
Dasha Shenkman OBE
With thanks to
Maggini Quartet Charitable Fund
Thomas and Megan Tress
St John’s Waterloo
Please follow social distancing protocol and wear a mask at all times.
There are no public toilets available at St John’s Waterloo. The nearest toilets are in Waterloo Station. Please do not film the concerts.
Spotlight Chamber Concerts
Spotlight Chamber Concerts and the Waterloo Festival bring some of the world’s finest classical musicians to the safely socially-distanced interior of one of London’s landmark churches, St John’s Waterloo. With dramatic lighting centred only on the performers and seating in the round, the audience is invited to focus solely on the immersive experience of live music in this series of late-evening concerts and recitals.
This series was founded by Anthony Friend in 2020, and is an initiative of the Maggini Quartet Charitable Fund.
27 May 2021 (originally 19 December 2021)
4 June 2021
Solem Quartet & Friends
8 June 2021
Doric String Quartet
11 June 2021
Pavel Kolesnikov & Samson Tsoy
17 June 2021
23 June 2021
Anthony Marwood, Hélène Clément & Tim Posner
24 June 2021
Thursday 17 June 2021
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Quartet in B-flat, Op. 33, No. 4
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Quartet in A minor, Op. 41
Andante espressivo – Allegro
Haydn is often appraised in terms of the legacy he left future composers. His popular nicknames, ‘Father of the Symphony’, ‘Father of the String Quartet’, or simply ‘Papa Haydn’ all pay respectful tribute to his originality, but implicitly frame him as an older relation to Mozart and Beethoven, both of whom studied with Haydn himself, and both of whom drew heavily on the stylistic and formal innovations Haydn perfected in his vast output. Haydn’s 104 symphonies, 68 string quartets, 45-or-so piano trios, 52-odd keyboard sonatas, 11 keyboard concertos and 15 masses are somehow staggeringly varied, whilst also converging on a crystalline conception of style. These works are especially notable amidst a vast number of other pieces for more obscure instrumentation (there are a few dozen works for mechanical clock, for example) partly because they helped define these genres as the most significant of all, inspiring further contributions from not only Mozart and Beethoven, but from almost all major composers even to the present day. However, there is something patronising in this view of him; Haydn’s achievement stands on its own merit, rather than in terms of where it eventually led in the music of his successors.
We perhaps tend to find Haydn’s long life, vast output and success within the establishment as rather less poetic than the unhappy or tragically short lives of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and other less fortunate artists. Haydn’s life and career was not without its difficulties, including about 8 years as a struggling freelancer from 1749-1757, teaching himself composition from various treatises and taking work where he could get it – including sometimes as a street performer. However, in 1761 he was eventually taken into employment by the Esterházy family, who became his longtime benefactors. Their love and appreciation of music – and wealth – gave Haydn the ideal context in which to develop as a composer; he even had access to his own orchestra. Moreover, when the terms of his contract were renegotiated in 1779, Haydn suddenly gained his artistic and commercial independence: his music was his own property, and no longer belonged to his employer. His career exploded, and he found fame throughout Europe and travelled widely, including repeatedly to London. It is not an exaggeration to say that he was the most famous musician in the world.
Against that backdrop, it is interesting that his output includes not only large numbers of ‘public’ works like symphonies, but also intimate chamber music works. The string quartet was characterised as a sophisticated conversation amongst ‘amateurs’ (a word without pejorative implications in the eighteenth century); for example, Haydn and Mozart played through some of their quartets together. Domestic music making of this kind was a primary form of entertainment, and enthusiasm for published works in ‘private’ genres such as string quartet, piano trio and piano sonata was sufficient for Haydn to achieve wealth and fame internationally long before he was able to visit the far corners of Europe.
The Quartet in B-flat, Op. 33, No. 4 dates from 1781, two years after Haydn had gained the right to publish on the open market. The Viennese publisher Artaria had the honour of publishing the Op. 33 quartets, which, like his five previous sets of quartets, were in a set of six. For Haydn, there was perhaps something auspicious about this being his sixth set of six; Haydn, almost fifty years old, saw this as a beginning of a new chapter and claimed he had written these in a ‘completely new and different manner’. In this original publication, the Quartet in B-flat was actually listed as the sixth, and not the fourth – so this would have been the last in the set.
The first movement begins as if in mid-sentence – literally halfway through a bar, for the players – and Haydn also deliberately tricks the listener with unexpected extremes of loud and soft, obfuscating so that we are not sure about where the first beat of each four lies. What might have been a rather martial, fanfare-like motif is turned into an object of play, tossed around the four players. Intense faster passages add drama, particularly in the first violin, but it is overall a witty, conversational movement.
The Scherzo is comically brief; its first theme has a rustic snap to it, contrasting with the sobbing minor-key Trio that it encloses and making it seem almost ridiculous. After this, the glowing, intensely beautiful Largo stands out all the more for its depth of emotion and grandeur – an aria for the first violin, its mood alternating between halting confessional and outpouring of feeling. The Finale is a contredanse (a country dance with two beats in a bar) in which the main tune becomes sillier and sillier; even amidst the short-lived Hungarian-style episode in G minor, the first violin seems to be making light of the scrubbing of their colleagues, finally descending into farce with the plucked final statement of the theme.
Schumann seems to have spent long periods of his life fixated on a particular subject, before moving abruptly on to the next. Some have seen this as a forewarning of the mental illness that caused him to spend the last two years of his life in an asylum. The result is a compositional output that is structured like a geological cross-section. At the bottom, there is a base layer of piano music as the bedrock; he composed almost nothing else until his thirtieth year, obsessed with becoming a piano virtuoso. Above that, a layer of songs; he composed 138 songs in 1840 alone, the year in which he married Clara Wieck. On top of that, a thin but rich layer of orchestral works; in 1841 he composed his first two symphonies. And in 1842, near the top, a rich body of chamber music works: beginning in June, he produced three string quartets, a piano trio, a piano quartet and a piano quintet.
Of these, the string quartets stand apart for their lack of a piano. With just four independent voices to work with, the string quartet perhaps presented a more intimidatingly stark blank canvas for Schumann’s compositional thought. However the real pressure came from the profound body of work in the genre already produced by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven before him (which he studied extensively before beginning work). The most recent master of the quartet medium had arguably been his friend Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), who had composed five of his six mature quartets by this point – but even Mendelssohn, the great child prodigy, had honed his craft on numerous ‘string symphonies’ before finally embarking on his first quartet at the grand old age of 14. Schumann humbly dedicated his Quartet in A minor to Mendelssohn in recognition of his achievement.
Schumann embraces the purity of the counterpoint between four separate instruments in the first movement of the Quartet in A minor, which enter in canon (one after the other, in imitation, as in Frère Jacques). Even after the austerity of this introduction softens, and Schumann’s rhythmic vigour and melodic fluency shine more freely, there are occasionally contrapuntal echoes between the instruments that can give the music a curiously ancient-sounding atmosphere. After a Mendelssohnian peak of dramatic intensity, Schumann’s Romantic qualities ultimately win out as the movement melts away. The Scherzo wears its debt to Mendelssohn more proudly in its hushed, bristling energy, though the sliding harmonies of the central Trio section are unmistakably, eccentrically Schumann. The Adagio is a vehicle for Schumann’s freewheeling fantasy and gift for melodic invention, honed through years of songwriting. Its singing qualities, however, are concentrated and inward-looking, and all the more affecting for it. The viciously fast, breathless Presto at times veers towards seeming unhinged, unexpectedly arriving in unison for short passages to create the illusion of a collective roar. The hushed, fleet quality borrowed from Mendelssohn is cut through with rustic drones in the cello, and for a curious minute near the end of the movement the momentum stops whilst the quartet play a dreamy echo of a distant folk song. The bustling energy of the first section returns, however, providing a fittingly virtuosic conclusion to the finale.
Agata Daraškaite, violin
Elitsa Bogdanova, violin
Magdalena Loth-Hill, viola
George Ross, cello
The first period instrument quartet to be selected as BBC New Generation Artists, the Consone Quartet are fast making a name for themselves with their honest and expressive interpretations of classical and early romantic repertoire. Their debut CD (released in 2018 on the French Ambronay Label) explores music by Haydn and Mendelssohn, and was met with great critical acclaim as a recording “that instantly leaps out of the stereo at you as something special” (The Strad, 2019).
Formed in 2012 at the Royal College of Music in London, the Consone Quartet are winners of the 2016 Royal Over-Seas League Ensemble Prize in London, having previously been awarded two prizes at the 2015 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, including the EUBO Development Trust Prize and a place on the EEEmerging Scheme in France.
The quartet has been enthusiastically received at London’s Wigmore Hall, King’s Place, St Martin-in-the-Fields and at the Edinburgh, Cheltenham, and King’s Lynn Festivals amongst others. The Brighton and York Early Music Festivals have been key Consone supporters over the past few years and regularly host the group.
Keen to enhance their international reputation, the quartet has performed at the Paris Philharmonie String Quartet Biennial and the Lyon Auditorium in France, at the Concertgebouw Brugge and AMUZ in Belgium, twice at the REMA Showcase, the Concerts d'été à St Germain in Switzerland and at other venues in Italy, Austria, Bulgaria, Slovenia, as well as on tour in Bolivia and Peru.
Consone always enjoy collaborating with fellow musicians, including the Fitzwilliam String Quartet, members of the Hanover Band, Anneke Scott, Simone Jandl, Mahan Esfahani, Justin Taylor, Gillian Keith, Jane Booth and Ashley Solomon. The quartet has previously worked with students of the Royal College of Music and is currently appointed at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama as Chamber Music Fellows for 2020/2021.
In 2020 the group was scheduled to perform at the Tanglewood Festival in the US, at the BBC Proms and at the Ryedale and Buxton Festivals amongst others, but due to the pandemic these dates have either been cancelled or postponed. In 2021 Consone is looking forward to a return to the Wigmore Hall and a tour of Japan later in the year.
St John's Waterloo
St John’s, the church on the roundabout at Waterloo, was built in 1824 for Waterloo’s working people and rebuilt in 1951 as the church of the Festival of Britain: a beacon of hope and resilience. Today, more than ever, it is responding to the needs of London’s diverse communities as a church, a charity and a well-known music and arts venue, committed to being here for everyone.
St John’s Artistic Director Euchar Gravina said: “St John’s is a well-known music venue and runs the annual Waterloo Festival. In these challenging times, we’re finding new ways of bringing hope and new ways to serve through a year-round programme co-curated by artists and performers whose aim is to create stronger communities as well as creating art.”