Stockbridge Music has unearthed a young treasure in the form of the Morassi Quartet. Average age 23, these four talented artists played as one, with an emotional maturity belying their years.
We were taken on a tour of the string quartet’s development over three centuries. The concert opened with Haydn’s “fifths” quartet from the 18th century, the dazzling peak in Haydn’s career. Unusually for Haydn, three of the four movements are in a minor key, and the ensemble clearly articulated the contrasts between the work’s overarching austerity with the mood-lifting folk dance sections.
Fast forward to the mid-20th century, the folk music theme continued with Bacewicz’s Quartet No. 4. This was a revelation: while the quartet is definitely ‘modern’ in feel, it was accessible and vibrant. The Quartet clearly loved playing this piece, and the energetic communication between them was wonderful to watch. The lively finale was the perfect way to send us off to the interval.
The second half was devoted to the 19th century with the great ‘heart on their sleeve’ Romantics, Rachmaninov and Mendelssohn. The quartet brought out Rachmaninov’s youthful lyricism, warmth, and wistfulness, beautifully contrasting the composer’s long languid lines with his clear and precise pizzicato and tremolo sections.
The highlight of the evening was their rendition of Mendelssohn’s last major work. We were left in no doubt that here was a man wracked with the pain and turmoil of grief following the death of his beloved sister, Fanny. The quartet dived headlong into the emotional whirlwind and led us on an exhilarating and virtuosic journey of bristling intensity. The audience burst into grateful applause at the end, having been moved and touched in the way that only great music played brilliantly can do.
As an aside, it was delightful to see two primary-school aged children in the audience. Stockbridge Music has long held an ambition to nurture the next generation of classical music lovers, and its recently launched concession pricing for under 18s appears to have got off to a good start.
Karen Malim, 6th March 2023