Review: the Speranza Quartet at Holy Trinity Gosport

Stuart Reed writes:

Pressure of work – things to do, people to see – prevented me from watching the Speranza Quartet perform at Holy Trinity Church, Gosport of the Sunday afternoon on 4 November. Instead I was highly privileged to watch these four classy musicians rehearse prior to the gig.

The high-ceilinged church was empty and the acoustics were just right for a small ensemble. The two works, Beethoven’s Quartet Opus 18 number 2 in G major and Schubert’s Quartet Opus 29 in A minor, were a good choice for the performance.

The Beethoven is sometimes called “The Compliment” because of the graceful formality of its opening gesture. It’s said to lack the power and ambition of the Quartet Opus 18 number 1. But it makes up for this with its exuberance and good humour. In rehearsal the Speranza Quartet seemed to bring out these qualities just as Beethoven intended.

The Schubert, which contains the theme tune of Rosamunde, is probably known more widely. It’s a beautiful work. Where needed, the Speranza played it with tenderness, contrasting markedly with high energy in all the right places.

Away from the platform, Cathy Mathews is normally shy and self-effacing. But she shows unruffled confidence and strong leadership once the violin is in her hands. She’s an orchestral violinist of some repute, having played in the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, the Liverpool Philharmonic, the BBC Radio and Concert Orchestras. She now leads the Havant Symphony Orchestra as well as playing in local ensembles.

Susan Bint was on second violin. Like Cathy Mathews before her, she graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music. She performed with the Endellion Festival Orchestra and now leads the Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra. An extremely accomplished musician, she darted glances regularly at the other three. Consequently, her playing was rock solid every bar of the way, matching the leader’s volume where necessary and dropping back to let others shine as the composers had written.

Janis Moore played viola. After graduating from Lancaster University, she studied both violin and viola with leading lights in the chamber music world. She now plays with the Havant Chamber Orchestra, the South Downs Camerata and the Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra. It was a pleasure to hear her viola rise in volume to respond to the questions coming from the other players.

On ‘cello, Wendy Lowe gave the group a warm, firm bass line throughout the rehearsal. Her ‘cello had a beautiful timbre to it. She studied music at Cardiff University and played with the Welsh Sinfonia. Now she plays with several orchestras including the South Downs Camerata. Wendy opened the rapid final movement of the Beethoven with real verve.

At rehearsal, Cathy Mathews was concerned about getting the balance right within the ensemble. She needn’t have worried. All four instruments complemented each other perfectly.

Some would say that a quartet should sound like four soloists working together. If this is true, then the Speranza Quartet hit the nail on firmly the head in both of the works.

“Speranza” is the Italian word for “hope” which is defined as the desire for things to turn out for the best. To me, it seems like they already have.
The last word on Speranza’s musical performance must come from Maggie McMurray, Holy Trinity’s Artistic Director who described it as “simply divine”. She said it as a resounding success in front of a large audience. You can’t get better than that.

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