Tippett: The Complete String Quartets

Reviewed on Thu 14 Apr, 2016

Taken from four Wigmore Hall concerts in 2013 and 2014, these performances by the Heath Quartet are brilliantly realized, more idiomatically astute than The Lindsays (ASV), less premeditated than the Tippett Quartet (Naxos).

Composed over nearly six decades – the first in 1935, the last in 1992 – Michael Tippett’s five string quartets are some of the most remarkable musical documents of the last century. Challenging certainly, but hugely rewarding in their debt to Beethoven and in Tippett’s compelling treatment of the form. Taken from four Wigmore Hall concerts in 2013 and 2014, these performances by the Heath Quartet are brilliantly realized, more idiomatically astute than The Lindsays (ASV), less premeditated than the Tippett Quartet (Naxos). There’s a certainty of touch, a vivid sense of give-and-take ensemble and a maturity of execution that belies the relative youth of a quartet formed as recently as 2002. The First Quartet is dispatched with lyrical richness, the Second rhythmically alive and energetic, the Third lent a telling Bartók-like complexity as it moves towards its subtly underplayed finale. The intensity and interior vivacity of the last two quartets are treated to playing of no less fierce and febrile imagination.
–Michael Quinn