I had the great pleasure of hearing the Sacconi Quartet in the
flesh recently, playing Haydn’s D major Quartet, op.76/5
and I was immediately struck by the insight these young players
showed into the music of, not only, a man in his mid-60s, but
a composer who is so often misunderstood. They seemed to perfectly
understand every nuance, find exactly the right tempo for each
movement, instinctively knowing that when Haydn wants a Presto
finale, he doesn’t necessarily want some hell-for-leather
race, he’s more interested in the jokes, and they play with
a verve and style which is perfect for this composer. So you can
imagine how excited I was to be given this, and also their second
issue on their own label, to review.
Each of these three works is in the conventional four movements
and Haydn packs them with a real wealth of good things. The Vivace
of the 1st Quartet
things off to a cracking start - a bright and breezy performance,
full of fun and great interplay between the players. The serenade-like
second movement is relaxed and gently warming, like a good Torte
. There is a suavity to the minuet, and the finale
is slightly held back in order to allow the music to speak. A
lovely, understated, performance.
begins in the most delightful high spirits, leader
Ben Hancox employing a very subtle rubato to colour the main theme,
and this is most useful when Haydn piles on the jokes in the recapitulation.
For sheer exuberance this single movement is hard to beat. The
brief slow movement is tragic and sparse, a truly heart-breaking
performance here, and the ensuing minuet, which follows almost
without a break, seems to grow out of the dying embers of the
previous music. The tempo here is quite deliberate and it has
a marvelous light and airy feel, but the trio returns to tragedy.
And how wonderfully well do the quartet handle the change from
one mood to the exact opposite without any feel that they are
separate sections, one just comes out of the other, and then back
again. The finale starts with a long, slow, introduction, which
is almost a movement in its own right, and its sombre, but never
tragic, mood is immediately dispelled by the mercurial Presto
which comes and goes so quickly as if to be some kind of half
remembered thought. The slow coda is beautifully handled and restrained,
the players not allowing the sudden rush to make them speed up
the ending, which is radiant.
The third of the set is equally original and daring in its construction.
An easy-going first movement is followed by a slow movement of
deep feeling and unrestrained passion. The minuet hops along,
and we here can delight in some playing in perfect octaves from
the violins, whilst the finale is a delightful run in the park,
if that’s your bag.
This is a very welcome issue from a still fairly young ensemble
- they formed in 2001 at the Royal College of Music - and one
which is intent on “getting it right”; ensuring that
the tempo fits the music, for instance, even if it seems to go
against accepted wisdom. They have a wide palette of tonal colour
and, perhaps best of all, they repeat the expositions!
The Sacconi Quartet will be big - get in here at the beginning
and hang around for more and more precious moments of great music
making. The recording is excellent, the musicians are placed at
a slight distance from the microphone so there’s a nice
feel of the room in which the recording was made, but it’s
not reverberant, and every line can be heard clearly, which is
as much a tribute to the preparation of the Quartet as it is to
do with the placing of the engineer. The notes are short but useful
and theses performances can be downloaded from the Sacconi’s
own website at www.sacconi.com
A most exciting issue.