Sunday, October 31, 2004

Quarneri Quartet, a musical feast

The Guarneri string quartet is a world famous performing string group. They are made up of violinists Arnold Steinhardt and John Dalley; violist Michael Tree, and cellist Peter Wiley. The chose to perform three contrasting quartets: a classical Mozart quartet, a late Romantic Ravel quartet, and a contemporary Danielpour quartet.
The Mozart quartet was surprisingly the weakest piece in the entire program. There were several moments where intonation was questionable, and I felt that the ensemble was not as together as they could have been for this piece. At times the balance seemed a little off as well. However, the tonal quality of all players was still excellent for this piece, and as the quartet progressed the musicians recovered nicely from their questionable moments. Especially good was the final movement of this quartet. The players seemed to really find themselves by this moment. My favorite parts of this quartet were the cello moments. In my opinion he was the man of the hour or at least the man of this quartet. His tonal production was fabulous, however, even during his solo moments, he never overpowered the rest of the quartet. There are always dangers when performing something as familiar as a Mozart piece. Mozart leaves the performer naked to the audience in many respects because of the simple elegance of his composition style. Perhaps the flaws of this performance would not have been apparent if the composer had been a less familiar one.
The next piece on the program was a contemporary quartet by Richard Danielpour. This quartet was the strongest for the Guarneri quartet. The ensemble felt far more together than during the Mozart quartet. The balance of the parts was fantastic, and the overall intonation lacked the glitches apparent in the first quartet. I felt that the first violinist really stole the show during this piece. His pianissimo highs were absolutely ravishing! His control was flawless. The ensemble as a whole exhibited fantastic contrast during this piece both dynamically and musically. The piece itself had very atonal moments all the way to some moments that were reminiscently romantic or classical. In conclusion I felt that the quartet itself connected better to this piece than they did to the Mozart quartet.
The final piece on the program was a Ravel quartet. This piece bridged the gap between the ultra modern Danielpour piece and the very classical Mozart quartet. This piece really drew in the audience more than the other two perhaps because it had the best elements of both quartets. The problem with the Danielpour quartet was the atonality that doesn’t always sit easily with audiences since it makes it harder to detect the overall direction in which a piece is moving. The problem with the Mozart concerto was its austere simplicity. The Ravel quartet combined the beautiful melodic moments with fire and passion seen in the Danielpour quartet. This combination made for an absolute show stopper. I felt that the playing while fabulous wasn’t quite as good as it was during the Danielpour quartet. Again there were the same balance problems. At times it was very difficult to hear the inner parts. However, all things considered, this piece was a dynamite performance for the quartet.
The Quarneri quartet is not overrated in any way. Their musical expression was fabulous. Their overall togetherness, though shaky at times, was quite good. I especially enjoyed the vastly contrasting repertoire of this performance. The pieces themselves really showed off the full dynamic and tonal ranges of the quartet.