Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Simply Quartet review – Haydn, Webern and Beethoven make Sunday morning complete at the Wigmore Hall

28 January 2024


The Simply Quartet is simply brilliant in this repertoire.

Simply Quartet

Simply Quartet (Photo: Grzesiek Mart)

Sprightly, fresh and dynamic are words that might describe both Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in F, Op. 135 (1826), and the playing of the Simply Quartet. The combination of the two thus felt like a match made in heaven, although the ensemble’s skills, strength and thoughtful approach were in evidence across the whole of this hour long concert at the Wigmore Hall.  

The recital began with Haydn’s String Quartet in B flat, Op. 33, No. 4 (1781), where the bowing in the Allegro moderato revealed an appropriate combination of positively glistening and relatively weightier strokes. The Scherzo that followed was thoughtfully handled, while the Largo felt exquisite because it was so beautifully poised. The pacing of the Finale was excellent, combined as it was with such dynamic yet delicate playing. The quartet was certainly not hanging around, yet there was no sense of anything being rushed, with the variations in tempo there were being skilfully managed, and the pizzicato line at the end completing the effect well.    

“…the ensemble’s skills, strength and thoughtful approach were in evidence…”

The quartet languished in Webern’s Langsamer Satz (1905) to exactly the right degree so that the playing never felt overindulgent. The contrast between the exquisite and the intense was rendered highly effectively so that the transition from the most highly charged passage back down to the most delicate felt highly natural and completely unforced. 

From the opening Allegretto in Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in F, Op. 135 (1826), the quartet demonstrated masterly handling of the sometimes subtle alterations in dynamic and pace. Strong control was also exerted over the Vivace so that intricacies in speed and tone were rendered effectively, without ever being to the detriment of the movement’s overall dynamism and exuberance. There was something very beautiful about the ‘ringing’ quality that was elicited from the Lento assai, cantante e tranquil as the ensemble rendered a range of effective sounds across the movement, while still making it come across as a coherent whole. The opening to the fourth movement’s Grave, ma non troppo tratto certainly possessed sufficient gravitas, with the series of three note ‘motifs’ revealing exactly the right levels of intensity. After this, the movement just seemed to flow towards its conclusion, with the final section of the Allegro with its combination of bowing and pizzicato rounding the concert off in tremendous fashion.  

• For details of all of the Simply Quartet’s recordings and future events visit its website.

• For details of all upcoming Sunday morning concerts at the venue visit the Wigmore Hall website.


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Simply Quartet review – Haydn, Webern and Beethoven make Sunday morning complete at the Wigmore Hall