Session Report: Second Viennese journey

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Sara Wolstenholme and Christopher Murray, both of the Heath Quartet, talk to Toby Deller about their pre-pandemic recording of intense Second Viennese School quartets – music from another time and place, in more ways than one

There is a fair amount of looking back involved in the Heath Quartet’s latest album, not least because it is such a long time since it was made. ‘We did the recording in Stoller Hall at Chetham’s School in Manchester back in late 2019,’ recalls cellist Christopher Murray, joining me for a Zoom conversation along with Sara Wolstenholme, second violinist on the recording. ‘It’s a beautiful hall with a fantastic warm acoustic, so we were lucky to get that place. We were working with Jeremy Hayes, a producer we’ve worked with before on previous discs, so it was great to be back with him again. Sara and I were students at Chetham’s, so it was amazing to be back there. It brought back lots of memories.’

Indeed, it was in that city, at the Royal Northern College of Music, that the group started life in 2002. Other connections to the quartet’s Manchester origins were involved in the recording in the form of a few specially invited friends. ‘That’s always worked very well for us in the past, so it has that element of a live performance,’ explains Murray. ‘We didn’t have a huge crowd – I don’t think we were allowed, for hire of the hall reasons – but we had a number of friends. My old cello teacher, Hannah Roberts, was there, and Douglas Jarman, who has written the programme notes for the album. He’s an expert on this period of music, and on Berg, so it was great to have him there. We know him from the Royal Northern, where he’s one of the academic professors.’…

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