Pavel Haas Quartet at The Queen’s Hall were an always welcome addition to this now well established, and regular 11am concert series at The Edinburgh International Festival. Pavel Haas Quartet consisting of Veronika Jarušková (1st violin), Marek Zwiebel (2nd violin), Jirí Kabát (viola) and Peter Jarušek (cello) are one of the world’s most popular string quartets, and this performance of the three works in this programme (listed below), clearly illustrate why they are so popular
Shostakovich String Quartet No 7 in F sharp minor Op 108
Schubert String Quartet in A minor D804 ‘Rosamunde’
Ravel String Quartet in F major
I have to admit that I am perhaps an odd choice of person to be reviewing classical music as I have no classical music background (or other music background) and certainly am not qualified to comment on the playing technique of individual performers. For me, classical music (in fact all forms of music) are about the same things – how that music touches me at an emotional level, and what I experience as a listener to that music. Sometimes that experience is an insight into the composer as a person, or perhaps what was going on in their life when the piece was written. Other times it will be a very definite image in my mind based upon what I am listening to. In these three very different works of both performance time, mood and texture, Pavel Haas Quartet brought alive music that I had very different responses to.
Shostakovich is a composer that I always like to listen to, and this work at 12 minutes length is one of his shorter and later works written at a time of many personal issues for the composer. As always for me, there is that feeling of something un-nerving about to happen, some hidden danger, unseen, but just around the corner. The work of Shostakovich so often for me sounds like perfect music for cinema, and in particular thrillers and horror films. This music was no different and there is always that feeling to me that wherever the music of Shostakovich takes you, Alfred Hitchcock is standing not far behind. Shostakovich music was never going to be the gentile sounds that many people associate with a string quartet, and Pavel Haas Quartet brought that sense of the “unsettled” to vivid life in their performance.
With our next two works from Schubert and Ravel, we are back on maybe more familiar ground for many people, and that gentile world of a string quartet playing in some fine Regency drawing room; a world of polite conversation, and refined humour whilst some danced with all the proper manners and etiquette of the times. There are however still many different moods and textures to both these works, not everything is as safe as it first sounds. Each of these works is a beautifully constructed story told in music that takes you from feelings of perfect calm to a sense of almost looming danger, from joyful heights to darker emotions of sadness and melancholy. This for me is what interpreting music is all about (I leave the technical and scholarly study to others), the power of music to create within us all emotional responses, and Pavel Haas Quartet are skilled interpreters of this music with an ability to bring its essence and power alive for their audience.
Judging by the applause of this capacity crowd at The Queen’s Hall and the standing ovation they received (before and after their encore), their music touched many other people at this performance.
Review by Tom King
Pavel Haas Quartet
The Queen's Hall