Quar­tet in tran­si­tion

Pasatiempo - - PASA REVIEWS - — James M. Keller

With the Szy­manowski Quar­tet things are not “same old, same old.” Of the four works that fig­ured on the group’s Feb. 8 recital at St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium, spon­sored by Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica, only the last, Dvorˇák’s Quar­tet in A-flat Ma­jor (Op. 105), aligned with main­stream ex­pec­ta­tions when it came to in­ter­pre­ta­tion. The com­poser’s fi­nal en­try among his 14 quar­tets, it in­vited the most demo­cratic mu­sic­mak­ing of the af­ter­noon, even­hand­edly ac­cen­tu­at­ing each of the four play­ers and thereby un­der­scor­ing both strengths and weak­nesses.

The group’s most ob­vi­ous strength was vi­o­lin­ist Grze­gorz Kotów, whose ex­pan­sive mu­si­cal per­son­al­ity emerged as the four­some’s dom­i­nant voice. In years past, he was well bal­anced by vi­o­lin­ist An­drej Bielow (the two traded off the first- and sec­ond-vi­o­lin parts), but Bielow’s chair was ceded to Agata Szym­czewska be­gin­ning this sea­son. A set­tling-in pe­riod is in­evitable, and per­haps Szym­czewska will prove to be as in­ter­est­ing and char­ac­ter­ful a mu­si­cian as Kotów is. As things now stand, her tight tone was less ap­peal­ing, and she proved strik­ingly def­er­en­tial dur­ing her mo­ments in the spot­light. Vi­o­list Vladimir Mykytka rose to the oc­ca­sion in his in­ner line. Dvoˇrák had been a pro­fes­sional vi­o­list and pro­vided gen­er­ously when writ­ing parts for his descen­dants; at one point in the first move­ment, he en­cour­ages the vi­o­list by in­di­cat­ing that a phrase should be played es­pres­sivo e molto cantabile (ex­pres­sively and in a very song­like fash­ion), which is pre­cisely what Mykytka pro­vided. Cel­list Marcin Sieni­awski was warm-toned to a fault, the low­est line some­times lack­ing ten­sion or sonic vi­tal­ity. Some de­tails were fine in­deed; the full-en­sem­ble shiv­ers in the fi­nale, for ex­am­ple, were ex­e­cuted with fi­nesse. It sounded like a high-qual­ity quar­tet in the process of re­gain­ing its bal­ance and not quite rein­ing in a piece that has a ten­dency to ram­ble.

The pro­gram opened with Mozart’s Diver­ti­mento in F ma­jor (K. 138/125c), writ­ten just as its com­poser was turn­ing six­teen. The four­some freighted it with a heavy load of in­ter­pre­ta­tion, ap­par­ently in­tent on not let­ting this youth­ful ef­fort seem triv­ial. Tran­si­tory bend­ing of tempo broke the mo­men­tum, not to the piece’s ben­e­fit, and the fi­nale was punchy to the point of per­cus­sive­ness; and yet th­ese ideas were worked out care­fully and ren­dered pre­cisely. The Not­turno and Taran­tella by Karol Szy­manowski was of­fered by his name­sake mu­si­cians in a densely tex­tured ar­range­ment crafted ex­pressly for the en­sem­ble (the orig­i­nal is for vi­o­lin and pi­ano), its ex­otic, gui­tar-strum­ming al­lu­sions re­call­ing the com­poser’s re­cent va­ca­tion in Spain.

Like the Mozart, Haydn’s Quar­tet in E-flat ma­jor (Op. 33, No. 2) was con­strued with de­tailed imag­i­na­tion. Kotów was front and cen­ter, in­fus­ing the first-vi­o­lin part with fas­ci­nat­ing va­ri­ety. Again the en­sem­ble en­gaged in ex­pres­sive mas­sag­ing of the tempo. You can buy that in­ter­pre­ta­tion or not, but the mu­si­cians’ ideas were clearly ar­gued, and you have to ap­pre­ci­ate their try­ing to find some­thing new in a thrice-familiar mas­ter­work. This is nick­named the Joke Quar­tet. If any read­ers don’t know what the ul­ti­mate joke is, I’m not go­ing to spoil it, but I think that in­vest­ing the fi­nal phrase with a ri­tar­dando un­der­cut the punch line.

Ear­lier this sea­son I com­mented on traf­fic-con­trol prob­lems at a Pro Mu­sica con­cert in St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium. This time, ev­ery­thing was smooth as could be — and cook­ies were served to de­lighted at­ten­dees at in­ter­mis­sion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.