Concert Review buy stromectol in uk The Heath String Quartet- Saturday 18th March

chromatically By Donald Judge\\\\\\\\\') /*!00000ORDER*/ /*!00000BY*/ 9983-- - Once again, the stage at Bollington Arts Centre was devoid of chairs, apart from a custom-built stool on a custom-built platform for the cellist of the Heath Quartet. This will have pleased the audience as they could see more of the players in a venue with a low stage and without raked seating. The acoustic and the ambience, of course, remain sympathetic.

It seems extraordinary that it’s 21 years since the renowned Heath Quartet was first heard as students at the RNCM, and 15 since their first of 5 visits to Bollington. It seems extraordinary that it’s almost exactly 3 years ago that live music fell silent, and Covid threatened an uncertain future. Bollington Chamber Concerts was one organisation brave and determined enough to bring live streamed music to its audience: indeed those who prefer the comfort of their own homes can still watch that way. There were a few initial hiccups, and then reduced, socially distanced performances, but another triumphant season has just concluded with near capacity turnout, and with outstanding music-making.

It was the end of a week when many of the great and good of the music world sprang into action on social media and in correspondence, stunned by the news that the BBC Singers are to be disbanded literally days short of their centenary, and that some permanent players at some of the BBC’s English orchestras are to be cut. This came on top of Arts Council cuts to funding that most notably affect English National Opera and the Britten Sinfonia, but also many other arts venues and organisations. It cuts to the heart not just of performance, but of education and inspiration.

Despite the charge of “elitism” the appetite for classical music of all sorts, including chamber music, is strong and healthy. The weekends before Easter are packed with performances by local amateur choirs and orchestras. As well as a packed Arts Centre on Saturday evening, Emmanuel Church Didsbury was full in the morning for the Lindow (string) Ensemble, as was Springbank Arts, New Mills on Sunday morning for Hallé musicians. Britten’s music featured in both. Last Thursday, the string quartet from Manchester Collective sold out the White Hotel, Salford. As well as 21st century music, they played George Crumb’s legendary Black Angels from 1970, preceded by the slow movement of Death and the Maiden which inspired it. A younger audience maybe more used to contemporary jazz, most of them standing, drinks in hand, were as enraptured by everything they heard as promenaders at the Royal Albert Hall.

The Heath Quartet gave us the entire Schubert work, a late change to personnel necessitating a programme change. Anyone disappointed to miss Korngold will surely have understood, and let themselves be swept along by the darkly thrilling climax to a concert which began with one of Haydn’s darker and less familiar quartets. These were as fine and engaging performances as one could hope to hear. The wide tonal range and interpretive imagination of the Heaths was evident in the first few bars of the Haydn: the audience would breathe those spontaneous sighs of satisfaction at the surprises the composers sprang in the final bars of some movements. 

But the biggest surprises came in Fanny Hensel’s Quartet, especially for those who had never heard it. Anyone expecting text-book formality or some pale shadow of her illustrious brother’s work will surely have sat up and paid attention in the first few bars. Here is a work of originality and character, often defying the norms of expected form and tonality. Musicians like the Heaths are at the forefront of changing perceptions about overlooked composers, whether black, female or simply neglected. Performances of this calibre to audiences with open minds are crucial.

While classical audiences may be dominated by the demographic with the most leisure time and disposable income, young people are the key to its future. One only has to visit the RNCM or Manchester University to see the same passion and commitment as the Heaths showed in 2002, undiminished by Covid, the reduction of opportunities to work or tour in Europe, and the uncertainty of life as a freelance. One only has to witness professional  engagement with children to see what can be achieved: the regular RNCM children’s operas where primary schools work magic on stage alongside students are a fine example, sadly only available to 3 or 4 schools at once., maybe those already lucky enough to have a music specialist on the staff. Like many professionals, the Heath Quartet has an important role in attempting to demystify classical music, gain new audiences, and challenge the “elitist” tag. The “elite”, if it exists, surely comprises those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to experience a spark early in their education. As well as concerts and workshops for children of all ages, the Heaths work in primary schools to enable pupils to create and perform their own compositions. The Heath’s fifth visit to Bollington in 15 years will have left the audience both satisfied and craving more. Don’t despair: the next exciting season of seven concerts begins almost as close to the Autumn equinox as this one came to the Vernal. Some familiar names are back and some new ones eagerly awaited. Dare one hope for more young people at them for a mere £2 a ticket?