And so to autumn, a season of maturing blackberries, blushing leaves and Tyne Consort recitals. There is a real sense of progression to this year‘s programme, from the finery of the European imperial court, to the wild undiscovered spaces of the New World. The contrast could scarcely be greater; yet it is more a happy accident than a grand design. The journey begins with early Mozart, which by definition means young Mozart, very much child as well as prodigy. Fittingly, the E Flat quartet throbs with carefree youthful enthusiasm. Even its A Flat slow movement, positioned between confident, pulsating outer movements full of melodies the composer liked so much he happily re-used later in life, is calm and reassuring, lacking in cynicism. The whole quartet is the Mozart of the popular imagination: enormously likeable and with everything sounding exactly as it should.
As a quartet we play a lot of Mozart. At the moment we are concentrating on the earlier quartets, although the later Eine Kleine Nachtmusik remains a staple of any string repertoire. Like no other aspect of the Mozart musical corpus – save perhaps for the operas – the quartets reveal the true genius of Mozart in that they sound exactly as music should. Imagine a string quartet and you imagine them playing Mozart, probably a minuet in a jolly major key on a pleasant summer’s evening. There is an almost extraterrestrial perfection to so much of Mozart’s music, something which is particularly evident in the iconic opening movement of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Listening to this is the musical equivalent of hearing a speech whose words are inspirational and chime exactly with what the listener would say were he capable of such articulacy. With Eine Kleine Nachtmusik this impression derives partly from Mozart’s unmatched mastery of sonata form, but it is primarily a melodic effect, whereby each bar flows from the previous one as if it were the only natural and possible successor. With such organic melodic precision no other composer can compete, not even Beethoven.