The Quartet Week Podcast with Anthea Kreston: The Heath Quartet on Britain and Britten
Of all pieces for string quartet, Britten’s first contribution to the genre holds a special place in the heart of Gary Pomeroy, violist of the Heath Quartet. The piece was on the program for the quartet’s performance at the Pierre Boulez Saal on June 10, together with Ravel’s String Quartet and Schoenberg’s famous Op. 10. “It’s incredibly exuberant and also beautifully nostalgic. It holds a special place with me,” Pomeroy says in conversation with Anthea Kreston for the third episode of our Quartet Week podcast series. Maybe this particular work by Britten, whose music the Heath Quartet has been performing successfully both in the UK and on the European continent, embodies more than others the inseparable historical and cultural ties between the two: with a slow introduction reminiscent of Viennese classicism, allusions to English Renaissance music, and musical wit à la Haydn in the finale, Britten deliberately wanted to inscribe himself in a shared European tradition. Quite possibly that’s why the composer is especially attractive to young British musicians these days, in times of great uncertainty about the future nature of the relationship between the United Kingdom and Europe. “Of course Brexit it’s a tragical farce, and nobody knows how it’s going to work out,” says Gary Pomeroy. Yet one thing is certain: the lives of UK-based touring artists won’t be getting any easier—“maybe we could all emigrate to Tuscany.”
For more on the rehearsal routine of the Heath Quartet and on the compatibility of career and family for musicians on the road, tune in to episode #3 of our Quartet Week podcast series, featuring Anthea Kreston in conversation with Gary Pomeroy and the other members of the Heath Quartet.
String Quartet No. 1 in D Major op. 25
String Quartet in F Major
String Quartet No. 2 in F-sharp Minor Op. 10
The Heath Quartet, joined by soprano Carolyn Sampson, traces the ways in which composers from Britain and continental Europe found a personal approach to the string quartet. For Benjamin Britten, the way forward led through an intense engagement with the works of Beethoven and Haydn, while Ravel primarily had to grapple with the influence of Debussy. Schoenberg, meanwhile, left behind the confines of the genre through the free use of dissonance and the addition of the soprano voice.
At the end of the season, the Quartet Week casts a spotlight on what many consider to be the quintessential chamber music format. Between June 7 and 16, eleven extraordinary international ensembles will explore both the historical development and the vast emotional scope of the string quartet genre in the intimate space of the Pierre Boulez Saal.