The Vancouver Playhouse
19 November 2002, 20.00
Vaclav Remes 2nd
Hadyn: String Quartet
in A Major, Op. 16 no. 6, "Sun" Janacek:
String Quartet No. 2, "Intimate Letters" Schubert:
String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 29, D. 804
Reviewer: JH Stape
What a concert
programme and what a bravura performance! Ranging from the graceful high
classicism of Haydn, to Janacek's brash modernity, to the choclate-gooey
romanticism of Schubert, this concert, the third in the Friends of Chamber
Music 2002-03 season, will doubtless long linger in memory as offering
dazzling variety, easily overcome technical challenges, and consummate
musicianship of the first order. The hail of bravos that closed the evening
was a reprise of the euphoria stirred by the The
utterly spellbinding account of Janacek's "String Quartet No.2."
The near-capacity audience knew that they were hearing a group on perfect
form: the Quartet's dark, port-wine sound flowed generously as extremely
nuanced playing bore witness to a distinguished Mitteleuropa tradition
maintained, carried forward, and clearly thriving.
"String Quartet in A Major, Op. 16 no. 6" is nothing less, nor
more, than good temper set to music, and the balance of forces set into motion
being redolent of old harmonies long undisturbed and self-confident. The opening
movement's jokiness is undoubtedly Teutonic in character. This mercifully gave
way to a less straight-laced, toe-tapping minuet played with control and con
brio. The lively fugual finale received a stylish and polished reading.
much geniality was a proper introduction to Janacek's "Intimate Letters"
Quartet (1928), written very shortly before his death, is a moot point,
but this astonishing piece of rhythmic complexity and singular virtuoso
demands was the evening's highlight. The Quartet produced a "large"
sound, bringing to this intensely introspective, sometimes moody, work something
surpassing idiomatic control that must simply be called "authority."
moods--the exuberant, the meditative, the lyrical--and the nervous energy demanded
throughout conclude in a high-energy allegro glowing with passion. The
Quartet played as though they were one man, handling the shifting, conflicting
moods with skill and conviction. The manic fingering demanded of the presto
testified not only to thorough masteryof an individual work but also of
a whole repertoire.
vivid and impressive performance, the Schubert String Quartet in A Minor,
Op. 29, could but come as an anti-climax, the Quartet negotiating its serenity
and vulnerability with supreme confidence and sincerity, and giving a finely
detailed account of a soundscape that was at once intricate and familiar. If
one might wish the soulful andante not a single bar longer, the piece
gained in interest by the singularly adventurous agility of its decidedly serious,
even tight-lipped Menuetto, in vivid contrast with the final movement's
charmingly playful, even impish, character, which again brought down the house.
as a concert tradition has oft, rightly enough, been lamented as a display of
mere technical razzle-dazzle, but on this occasion with the Quartet thanked
the audience for its attentive responsiveness by a brilliantly musical rendition
of the final movement of Dvorak's "American" String Quartet in F major,
One can only
hope that the Friends of Chamber Music will invite the Prazák
Quarter back to Vancouver--and soon.
© 2002, JH Stape