A string quartet is a great first classical concert for someone more accustomed to rock or pop gigs. “It’s a much more personal and intimate experience than an orchestra or a bigger group” explains Christopher Murray, cellist in The Heath Quartet. “Every performance will go differently, due to the mood, the audience, the venue. There are far fewer people on stage so what each person is doing counts for a lot more. Over a couple of pieces, you get to know these people as musicians, individually.”
As someone raised on rock and pop music myself, Brighton Dome and Strings Attached’s Coffee Concert series has played a large part in introducing me to the rich world of chamber music. Beethoven’s string quartets can be breathtaking when heard live, which might partly be due to what Christopher calls “the physical sense” of his music. “You really play with your body: you have to really go for it.”
The first piece to be performed at ACCA will be Beethoven’s String Quartet in D Major Op.18 No.3. “A very charming, very sunny, optimistic piece. It’s got a wonderful spirit to it. A fantastic fourth movement, really virtuosic. Beethoven asked a lot of the musicians, for them to be incredibly skilful in their ensemble playing. It’s really exciting to hear.”
Brahms’ String Quartet in A Minor Op. 51 No.2 will come next, a piece Christopher describes as “nostalgic and elegiac”. We’re both most excited about Beethoven’s String Quartet in C major Op.59 No.3 however, his favourite Beethoven to perform. “It’s so much fun, and so generous. Extrovert, and it has this real warmth to it. There are moments where the cello is surprisingly agile, which usually gets a bit of a surprised titter from the audience.”
Christopher particularly enjoys playing the pizzicato parts (plucked strings) in the second movement of the Op.59. It’s a beautiful movement that I recommend hearing at home before the concert: a folk tune is explored through all four instruments (two violins, viola and cello) in mesmerising, melodious fashion.
The Heath Quartet have been performing at the Coffee Concerts “for at least ten years. We’ve got to know people in the audience quite well. People often stay around afterwards and mingle and chat.” The concerts are linked to the nationwide Cavatina scheme, which offers free tickets to anyone aged between eight and 25: interested young people can collect tickets from Brighton Dome or ACCA’s ticket offices.
“People often say there’s a crisis because audiences are aging. I don’t really buy that. To go to hear quartet music, which is often quite complicated music, it can help to get to know the stuff beforehand. But on the other hand it’s a great experience for young people to hear it fresh, without any preconceptions. So it’s open for everyone.”
Photo by Simon Way
ACCA, 26th Jan, 11am