AFTER hearing the Elias play Smetana’s first quartet in the final Music in the Round concert of the Portsmouth season, I am more than ever convinced it is an under-valued masterpiece.
Subtitled From My Life, it reflects the composer’s reactions to both happy and tragic times, and the players encompassed both with playing that seemed almost improvisatory in rhythm.
The polka-like second movement, the rich love scene of the third and the pain of deafness in the finale were all irresistible.
In both Beethoven’s Op 18 No 1 and Bartok’s Quartet No 3, the Elias showed their understanding of the power of silence and the importance of the slightest gradations between piano and pianissimo, forte and fortissimo.
Beethoven’s adagio was not allowed to drag and had a fine-spun, improvisatory, inward and visionary quality.
Bartok’s quartet was played with often-ferocious attack, but that was combined with a sense of freedom to achieve a properly open-air aspect.