By Narelle Wood
It has taken three years for the Melbourne Festival to complete its ambitious undertaking of performing all 68 quartets composed by Franz Joseph Haydn. As part of this plan The London Haydn Quartet In their Melbourne debut contributed an astounding performance of three of Haydn’s string quartets (No 17 Op 17 No 2, No 37 Op 50 No 2 and No 3 Op 54 No3).
It would be easy, at first glance, to mistake this sort of performance as simplistic; there is after all only a stage, the four musicians and some lights. But the simplicity of the surrounds only highlights the complexity of the music and the attention to detail in what can only be described as an incredibly nuanced performance of Haydn’s works. The intricate composition of Haydn’s music moves from moments of quiet almost stillness to furious duelling as the four string instruments answer and talk to and over each other in the most animated musical conversations.
Catherine Manson (violin), Michael Gurevich (violin), James Bord (viola) and Jonathan Manson (cello) make up the quartet and are as every bit as animated as the music. It was clear from both their performance and the brief moments Manson spoke that Haydn is their passion; Manson describing their dedication to Haydn’s works as something akin to dwelling in the unique musical universes that Haydn created. What was perhaps even more evident though was the mastery that these four musicians exhibited, especially in the ways they seamlessly moved through the pieces, each instrument and musician perfectly connecting to each of the others.
The music was beautiful and I found it to be an extremely relaxing and a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend some time on a Friday evening. The only disappointing thing was that it was over so quickly. But the good news is the Haydn for Everyone Series does continue throughout the Melbourne Festival. If you can, make sure to catch The London Haydn Quartet next time they visit for a remarkable classical music experience.
Haydn for Everyone Series
Venue: Various locations and times. See website for details
Season: Until 25th October