REVIEW: Art of the string quartet exquisitely demonstrated at CEWM

More Info
By Thursday, Apr 20 Arts & Entertainment
David Edwards
The Escher String Quartet in performance at the Close Encounters with Music concert April 15 at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. From left, Adam Barnett-Hart and Aaron Boyd, violins; Brook Speltz, cello; and Pierre LaPointe, viola.

Great Barrington — If you ever present a concert titled “The Art of the String Quartet,” you’d better hire musicians who exemplify the very highest standards of chamber music performance. Their ensemble must be impeccable, their intonation flawless, their tone rich when it should be rich and glassy when it should be glassy. Their enthusiasm onstage must be palpable and irresistibly infectious. They must be indomitable in the face of the genre’s most harrowing scores. All these requirements were met on the evening of April 15 at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center when Close Encounters with Music (CEWM) introduced Adam Barnett-Hart, Aaron Boyd, Pierre Lapointe, and Brook Speltz, better known as the Escher String Quartet.

The program’s opener, Mendelssohn’s Quartet in F minor, opus 80, was no warm-up number. Sure, Mendelssohn’s music is more immediately accessible to most listeners than the jagged, alien sounds of Bela Bartók. But Mendelssohn’s F minor quartet is, from the get-go, highly demanding of all players, and within the first few measures it was clear that these four men would keep the crowd on the edge of their seats for the rest of the evening.

The Escher gleefully overwhelmed Mendelssohn’s F minor quartet. They crushed it. And now, the remainder of the program looked more promising than ever.

Bartók’s Quartet No. 3 is, as CEWM Artistic Director Yehuda Hanani advised in his opening remarks, not the kind of music one casually sings along with. But its emotional urgency, novel string articulations, and path-breaking use of harmony and color made this piece compelling, exhilarating, and satisfying.

After intermission came Beethoven’s Quartet in E minor, opus 59, No. 2, the second of three quartets commissioned by Russian Ambassador Andreas Razumovsky. By now, the Mahaiwe audience had gotten a pretty good idea of what they were in for: a vigorous, decisive, and impossibly tight performance of Beethoven’s second “middle period” quartet. That’s exactly what they got. And when any worthy quartet is performed with such verve and precision, it’s a revelation.


Return Home

What's your opinion?

We welcome your comments and appreciate your respect for others. We kindly ask you to keep your comments as civil and focused as possible. If this is your first time leaving a comment on our website we will send you an email confirmation to validate your identity.

Scene III: Wookie, a small town play

Tuesday, Apr 18 - sonia (smiling): how’s the living situation? wookie: dicey sonia: theme? wookie: they post trespassers names on the bulletin board in the center of town

POEM: Syria

Saturday, Apr 8 - In view of Tuesday’s horrific nerve agent attack on civilians in Idib Province and in view of Friday’s missile attack on Syria, we are republishing John Lawson’s poem that we posted in December about the Syrian conflict.

Bits & Bytes: ‘What a Heart Loves;’ more than 300 attend legislative breakfast; Bach’s birthday dinner party; ‘As Time Goes By;’ James P. Cousins at Scoville Memorial Library

Thursday, Apr 6 - The legislators who attended the breakfast expressed their understanding of a tough road ahead due to new legislation and budget cuts, said they will continue to fight for the rights of individuals with disabilities in Berkshire County and in Washington, and expressed that voices will be heard through their representation.

MUSIC: A close encounter with the arc of Beethoven

Thursday, Mar 30 - The monumental “Archduke” piano trio took pride of place after the intermission. Pianist Michael Brown, violinist Lee Priday, and cellist Yehuda Hanani gave an “Archduke” performance for the ages.