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Weekend Roundup

Tokyo Quartet Take the Measure of Two Masters, by Mark J. Estren

Brentano Quartet Weaves Warhorses and Wuorinen
, by Anne Midgette

Opera: Two Early Works in Capable Young Hands, by Joan Reinthaler


Elsewhere: Esa-Pekka Salonen said his final goodbyes as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The conductor Donato Cabrera made an unexpected debut with the San Francisco Symphony when two other conductors got sick. William Christie and Les Arts Florissants brought Monteverdi's "Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria" to Madrid's Teatro Real, in a staging by Pier Luigi Pizzi, for what was allegedly the opera's first performance in Spain, ever. (The Classical Beat does not offer Spanish-to-English translations, but the reviews were very positive.)

By Anne Midgette  |  April 20, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  from readers , international , local reviews  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: In Performance: Local Reviews
Next: The Reich Stuff


A commenter named Walter Schimmerling sent me some observations about the Tokyo Quartet performance, and said he'd be happy to have them posted on the blog. Here are some excerpts of his review:

"...I had heard the Tokyo String Quartet several years ago elsewhere, and I was blown away by the quality of their musicianship. So, when I learned they were playing at the nearby Strathmore Music Center, I thought it was high time to go see, and took my family.

"Well, it turns out that the Strathmore Music Center has a spectacular modern concert hall, with spectacular acoustics, that makes the Victorian brothel décor of the Kennedy Center venues appear shabby by comparison. The Tokyo String Quartet plays serious music with a serious purpose, and it plays fantastically well. Their program consisted of the Haydn String Quartet in G Major, Op. 76, No. 1; the Beethoven String Quartet in C minor, Op. 18, No. 4; and, the Schubert String Quintet in C Major, D. 956 (with Lynn Harrell as the second cello). No peanut butter here, just paté de foie gras all the way....

"What makes the Tokyo String Quartet so great, without using adjectives? First of all, the timing. Performing music is like weaving lace out of time and even the slightest mismatch will coarsen the pattern. It is like tuning a radio station. At the right frequency, and with adequate signal strength, suddenly all noise disappears and the pure broadcast becomes a presence. At an even slightly different frequency, or a poorer signal strength, the broadcast can still be heard, but it is no longer “there”. This ensemble has perfected the precision of its timing to a degree no other group of musicians seems to have achieved.

"Another component of perfection is the dynamic range. Enthusiastically sawing away at the instruments may be perceived as passion by the sort of person who applauds between movements, but it is not artistry. Artistry is being able to know when to play the softest sounds and when to play the loudest. Last night, the combination of extraordinary musicians and an extraordinary music auditorium made it possible to enjoy the full range of sound, from the slightest plucking of the first violin in Schubert to the anguished chords of Beethoven.

"Finally, the instruments in a chamber piece are supposed to talk to each other, not to just sit there and be played. The instruments are not just supposed to talk to each other, and politely play variations on each other’s themes. They are supposed to seduce each other, so that when they come together as one, they are not only consummating the music, they are consumed by it.

"All that happened at the Tokyo String Quartet performance at Strathmore.... Too bad you weren’t there!"
--Walter Schimmerling

Posted by: MidgetteA | April 20, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

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