Although I had undoubtedly come to Snape that evening solely in order to hear Ian Bostridge sing Britten and Tippett, I left feeling the most astonished, and exhilarated, by Britten’s extraordinary String Quartet no. 1, played with blistering skill and forensic intensity by the Arcadia Quartet.
Britten’s String Quartet no. 1 had a tremulous, magical opening into which larger notes fell like huge raindrops scattering onto a wind-harried sedge, finding strange synergies between notes, before plunging into a journey in which the violin is the hero. Ideas evolve from a deep and changing harmonic structure, like bubbles floating to the surface of a deep lake. Different movements finish with a sprightly flourish, almost a touch of insouciance. The Arcadia Quartet’s superb playing had the audience spellbound, while the whole piece seemed to express a complex and sophisticated joy, one which is not achieved without pain and endeavour along the way.