Friends of Chamber Music

The Auryn Quartet

Haydn Quartet in D minor, Opus 76 No. 2 ("The Fifths") Bartók Quartet No.1 (1908) Dvorák Quartet in F major, Opus 96 (American)

Violin Matthias Lingenfelder Violin Jens Oppermann Viola Stewart Eaton Cello Andreas Arndt

Date 14 February 2006, 20.00 Venue Queen Elizabeth Playhouse Reviewer JH Stape

Celebrating its twenty-fifth year, the Auryn Quartet brings a depth of experience to anything it touches. Generously sponsored by Jastram Engineering, Ltd, this concert ranged from the Classical to the modern repertoire and was tailor made to show mastery across the musical spectrum. Never flashy, always disciplined, and ever elegant, the Auryn offered pleasure and illumination in equal abundance.

The opening Haydn quartet (1797), one of the eighty-three he wrote, was an object lesson in Classical style: poised and self-confident itself, it was delivered with clarity and grace. The balance sustained between the quartet's members is far from run of the mill, and no wonder critics have spoken of "telepathy" as one of the Auryn's hallmarks.

The mellow first movement gave way to the more expansive and expressive Andante, further developed in the Menuetto where serious fun of the 18th century kind was on offer. The finale, marked Vivace assai, was a let-your-down moment, and its hectic tempi were rendered with vigour and precision. This kind of music assuring us that all is right with the world was played in such a way that assent was the only option.

From Haydn to Bartók is no effortless leap, and the pensive, serious opening of the three-movement String Quartet No. 1 (1908) announces that a moody world of a dark, brooding character is about to unfold. Urgent and austere, the first and second movements are played without pause, the second slightly looser but never becoming less than edgy. Contrast arrives in the boldness and excitability of the Allegro vivace, where clipped, rapid statements and frenetic energy ultimately make the plunge into the whirling depths.

The evening's closing piece, Dvorák's "American" quartet (1894) -- it was written in Spillville, Iowa -- is a sparkling exploration of folkloric elements, drawing on several American melodies variously and deftly transformed into high art.

The quartet was played with gusto, the happy opening movement shifting into the darker hues and lyrical beauty of the Andante. The two final movements, both marked vivace (the third with the direction molto) were "lively" indeed, with a rush to the finish -- a joyous, dance-like ending received a compelling and sprightly reading.

This was yet another in a long, long series of slam-dunks for The Friends of Chamber Music whose flawless programming brings the very best musical ensembles year-in-year-out to the Vancouver Playhouse. Now in its fifty-eighth season, the Society shows no signs of losing its touch.

© 2006 JH Stape