Fi­nal chance to en­joy Ce­cilia String Quar­tet

Group shows at Ho­nens Fes­ti­val 2017 ex­actly why they will be missed

Calgary Herald - - YOU - KEN­NETH DELONG

While the se­cond ma­jor event in the Ho­nens Fes­ti­val 2017 in­cluded the pre­vi­ous win­ner of the com­pe­ti­tion, Luca Bu­ratto, this con­cert was prin­ci­pally de­voted to mu­sic for string quar­tet, per­formed by Canada’s Ce­cilia String Quar­tet.

The quar­tet shot to promi­nence fol­low­ing their win in the Banff In­ter­na­tional String Quar­tet Com­pe­ti­tion in 2010, and for the past few years they have per­formed widely and also served as the en­sem­ble-in-res­i­dence at the Univer­sity of Toronto.

But for var­i­ous rea­sons — al­most cer­tainly in­clud­ing a sat­u­rated mar­ket in pro­fes­sional string quar­tets — the group has de­cided this is their last year as an en­sem­ble. This con­cert was a fi­nal op­por­tu­nity to sam­ple and en­joy what they have brought to the Canadian mu­sic scene: com­pelling per­for­mances of the stan­dard reper­toire, as well as new works by Canadian composers.

Fri­day’s pro­gram opened with Haydn’s Lark quar­tet, Op. 64, No. 5, a cheer­ful piece based on a gra­cious melody and charm­ing 18th-cen­tury man­ners. As a per­for­mance, it showed off the fun­da­men­tal ex­cel­lence of the quar­tet in mat­ters of bal­ance, blend and en­sem­ble.

The in­di­vid­ual mem­bers are re­mark­ably well matched in their ap­proach to tech­nique and con­cep­tion of tone, and rhythm; and to­gether they pro­duced as charm­ing an ac­count of this work as I have heard live in many years. The rhyth­mic pro­file of the mu­sic was re­mark­ably buoy­ant and the tex­tures were lu­cid and bal­anced. The spirit and tem­per­a­ment of Haydn’s mu­sic suits the per­form­ers, and one could only have ad­mi­ra­tion for the high level of ac­com­plish­ment demon­strated here, with all el­e­ments of the mu­sic fit­ting beau­ti­fully to­gether.

The mid­dle part of the pro­gram in­cluded two Canadian works; one with pi­ano, the other for strings alone. The work for strings was the String Quar­tet No. 3 by Ka­t­rina Curcin, a Ser­bian-born com­poser who com­pleted her stud­ies in Toronto and lives there. The work is an imag­i­na­tively con­ceived, one-move­ment piece with plenty of con­trast and with strong, dis­tinc­tive mu­si­cal ideas.

The Ce­cil­ians of­fered a per­sua­sive ac­count of this work, one that pre­sented the rough tex­tures with­out com­pro­mise, but also found the lyri­cism con­tained in the work. This is mu­sic that re­quires so­phis­ti­ca­tion in per­for­mance, and this was most cer­tainly on dis­play here.

The other work was Lawren S. Har­ris Suite for Pi­ano Quin­tet by Vancouver com­poser Stephen Chat­man. Al­though he is best known for his choral mu­sic, Chat­man’s piece, con­sist­ing of mu­si­cal vi­gnettes based on fa­mous paint­ings from Har­ris (one of Canada’s Group of Seven), made a strong im­pres­sion, es­pe­cially the fan­ci­ful and fleet mid­dle move­ment.

The open­ing move­ment, a mu­si­cal por­trait of Har­ris’s Iso­la­tion Peak, was much in the style of the later Aaron Co­p­land with its spare, open dis­so­nance-laden chords. The fi­nal move­ment quotes a frag­ment of Rossini’s Sta­bat Mater, elab­o­rated with un­usual har­monies. As with the other Canadian work, Chat­man’s work was of­fered with sym­pa­thy and un­der­stand­ing, the per­form­ers com­pletely in tune with the mu­sic.

Here, Luca Bur­rato was the pi­anist, his pro­jec­tion of the tex­tures and sound world of the mu­sic id­iomatic and nicely blended with the other per­form­ers. Praised for his col­lab­o­ra­tive work dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, he showed once again he re­sponds re­mark­ably well to the con­text of blended work.

The con­cert con­cluded with an en­er­gized ac­count of Men­delssohn’s String Quar­tet in D ma­jor, Op. 44, No. 1, a work that can also be heard on the group’s most re­cent CD.

The CD ver­sion is com­pet­i­tive with the best out there; the same qual­i­ties that marked their Haydn play­ing nicely trans­ferred to Men­delssohn. This was, per­haps, the most sat­is­fy­ing of all the works pre­sented in a con­cert that showed why the group will be missed.

LISA- MARIE MAZZUCCO

The Ce­cilia String Quar­tet has said this is their last year per­form­ing to­gether.

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