RTE Vanbrugh String Quartet

String Quartet No 11 in F minor, Op. 95 - Beethoven

String Quartet No 11 in F minor, Op. 95 - Beethoven

The Still Dancers - Piers Halliwell

String Quartet No 14, Op. 105 - Dvorak

This concert on Sunday had a strongly visual aspect, for not only was Piers Halliwell's piece accompanied by the projection of images on a screen, but the players were bathed in autumnal light, the listeners left in the shade.


The composer introduced the work, explained its title and how it had inspired Jean Duncan of the Royal Ulster Academy to produce a number of paintings and etchings. These images were arranged in sequence and matched to the music with hypnotic effect. They were not illustrative or narrative, but provided a parallel vision of abstract forms and visions.

Halliwell's structures rak, they were, if not tuneful, both atmospheric and sturdy and their accessibility was aided by the spoken introduction and the pictures on the screen.

Beethoven's Op. 95, the serioso, is not one of the last quartets but spiritually it belongs with them: there is the same sense of the players trying to encompass more than the string quartet can handle. And as usual, Beethoven never fails to surprise; the sudden transition from the second to the third movement, the presto coda to the finale, such strategies make the heart miss a beat. The Vanbrugh were rightly serious in their approach and brought out the work's profundity.

Dvorak's Op. 105 is a cornucopia of regional idioms, even if they are kept in order by the composer's classical training. The Vanbrugh played with the requisite mixture of rural gusto and sophisticated control.