RE­BECCA FRANKS talks to the Chiaroscuro Quar­tet’s lead vi­o­lin­ist about Haydn’s sem­i­nal Op. 20 set

BBC Music Magazine - - REVIEWS -

How im­por­tant are these quar­tets in the his­tory of the genre? In­cred­i­bly im­por­tant. Haydn’s Op. 20 is the real ba­sis of quar­tet reper­toire. In these six pieces there are so many dif­fer­ent ways to use a string quar­tet. Haydn was the real mas­ter of that. You can hear in Op. 20 how to bring out the so­los, how to make the voices talk to each other and laugh with each other. They were called the ‘Sun’ quar­tets, but that was so they would sell bet­ter at the time. There re­ally is ev­ery­thing here. The sec­ond move­ment of No. 4 is re­ally dev­as­tat­ing, prob­a­bly one of my favourite move­ments in the set. It’s a real spec­trum of emo­tion in Op. 20. It’s not only sunshine.

Lis­ten­ing to this CD, it re­ally sounds like you rel­ished play­ing these three quar­tets. Was that the case?

We had so much fun. There were so many jokes we could make, so many clever nu­ances that came to us when we were play­ing it. So while I think it was a lit­tle bit dif­fi­cult for the record­ing en­gi­neer as he never had the same take twice, we al­ways had lots of fun. Ac­tu­ally, when we first started to play Haydn it was re­ally dif­fi­cult. We felt on the spot, a lit­tle bit naked. As we got to know the lan­guage, we learned to be quite free with it. Haydn’s unique style is to­tally recog­nis­able

And what dif­fer­ence does play­ing this mu­sic on gut strings make? They have a very dif­fer­ent sound. We play with a lot of res­o­nance, and we also like the earth­i­ness of the sound. Some­times we make a sound that isn’t al­ways pretty or bird­like. There are lots of those colours to bring out in this mu­sic. In terms of the sound on disc, the choice of hall is im­por­tant. We love the Sen­dessal Bre­men in Ger­many. It’s wooden and so warm, and we love the sound we can get there. Our pro­ducer Ingo Petry is a vi­tal part of it. We have to to­tally give our­selves to his mu­si­cal­ity and how he puts it to­gether in the end.

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