The Belcea Quartet, one of the world leading string quartets, was at the TCE to play last Sunday morning.
They had chosen 2 late works – by Bartók and Mendelssohn – which share several characteristics:
– they are both their Quartet #6
– they are both the last quartet they composed, even though the composers had plans for a #7
– they both relate to loss: the imminent loss of his mother and his homeland for Bartók, who could not stand the idea of his country being an ally of Nazi Germany and felt that war was unavoidable ; the loss of his sister Fanny for Mendelssohn – she was very supportive of her brother and a highly gifted pianist and composer in her own right.
The Belcea had chosen to start with the Bartók. The structure of the piece is unusual: it opens with a “Mesto” section (Mesto means sad in Hungarian), that comes back in each of the 4 movements and gets more and more developed, until it consumes the whole final movement. In the first 3 movements, it introduces a much faster section, “Vivace”, then “Marcia”, then “Burletta” followed by a “Moderato”.
I remember studying this piece with my professor, Olivier Corbiot, and it remains my favourite Bartók Quartet to this day.
The Mendelssohn Quartet has a more traditional structure, even though the slow movement is placed in 3rd position.
Special mention to the “Burletta” and the “Scherzo”.
The Belcea Quartet played the wonderful “Larghetto” of Mozart’s Quartet No. 22 as an encore.
I’m looking forward to their series of Beethoven Quartets next season!