Review: Victoria String Quartet, Buxton Festival

Over the course of three lunchtime concerts at the Buxton International Festival the Victoria String Quartet played all of Tchaikovsky’s quartets – each paired with another work which might share the mood or contrast with the main piece.
 
For the second concert Schubert’s short Quartettsatz was the companion piece. Often heard, and therefore familiar, it is the first movement of a quartet that was never finished even though it was written when the composer was only 23 and had almost 8 years to live. Full of ideas, rich in melody but also unsettled – moving from smooth lines to jagged episodes – one is left with a sense of what might have been.
 
Tchaikovsky’s second quartet (Op 22) was composed at the end of 1873. This was relatively early in his career, when most of the works for which he is now best remembered were still ahead of him. At the time though he was very pleased with the composition which came easily to him and is now generally regarded as the best of his quartets. Like the Schubert there is an ambiguity about the mood – especially in the opening movements. Periods of comfort and calm are disturbed by more abrasive phrases. The slow third movement is much more obviously ‘Russian’ and identifiably Tchaikovsky.
 
The Victoria String Quartet was popular in the 2018 Festival and the sustained applause for this performance shows that another visit to Buxton would be welcome.
 
Slightly disappointing was the fact that the concert, at St John’s Church, was advertised as lasting 75 minutes when 50 was nearer the mark, which given the choice of programme was about right. 
 
By Keith Savage