The Heath Quartet are unabashed evangelists for Tippett’s five mighty but shamefully overlooked contributions to the genre and in each of their three concerts they explore their connections to those of his compositional idol, Beethoven.
In the Second (1942) written just after A Child of Our Time, we hear the composer’s distinctive, recently discovered voice in full flower. Conceived in the midst of a devastated London (whilst Head of Music at the bomb ravaged Morley College) there is anguish in the slow movement fugue-so reminiscent of Opus 131-but the work is characterised by remarkable energy and at times ecstatic optimism. A new found confidence vis-à-vis his sexuality and pacifist convictions, intense, life-defining Jungian therapy sessions, and the first flush of his relationship with artist Karl Hawker, his lover for the next 25 years, all inform this deeply personal statement.
Beethoven’s Op.18 No.3 is actually his first quartet. It’s the sunniest and most tender of this early set, written in a spirit of homage to, and competition with, his teacher, Haydn. While it very rarely strays from major keys, it plays with “light” and “dark” string colours (the slow movement stumbles upon the forbidding E-flat minor at one point) and some unorthodox modulations go even further than his “Papa” dared.
Tippett: String Quartet No.2
I. Allegro grazioso II. Andante III. Presto IV. Allegro appassionato
Beethoven: String Quartet No.3 in D major, Op.18 No.3