In today's Washington Post:
Jeremy Denk's two Ives, by Anne Midgette.
Fairfax Symphony is fair to good with Hadelich in Barber, Sibelius, by Anne Midgette.
Pacifica leads off Candelight Beethoven cycle
by Charles T. Downey
On Saturday night the Candlelight Concert Society began a complete cycle of Beethoven’s string quartets at Howard Community College’s Smith Theater in Columbia, Maryland. In this series each concert will feature a different ensemble, and the talented Pacifica Quartet, which has already presented a complete Beethoven cycle by itself elsewhere, set a high standard for the foursomes that follow.
(read more after the jump)
With playing that favored subtlety over raw power, the Pacifica’s sound rarely felt forced in, for instance, the playful handling of op. 18, no. 6, from Beethoven’s early period. The air of restraint, especially the narrow, elegant ribbon of first violinist Simin Ganatra’s tone, was broken only in the gutsy off-beat accents of the scherzo and the emotional polarities of the alternately gloomy and restless last movement, “La Malinconia.” Some tempo choices seemed over-ambitious, like the fast movements of op. 74, from the composer’s middle period, in which short notes in running passages were occasionally blurred or dropped.
Programming Beethoven’s last quartet on the first concert of the cycle seemed odd, akin to reading the end of a book first. After the length and contrapuntal severity of the other late quartets, however, Beethoven’s op. 135 balances a wistful slow movement, played here with a sense of yearning heartache, with some light-hearted motifs in the first and last movements. Ganatra’s tone high on the E string became shrill and off-pitch at times, but all in all this was an impressively controlled performance that bodes well for the Pacifica Quartet’s plans to perform the complete cycle next season in London and New York. A single encore stayed with Beethoven, a lyrical performance of the fifth movement (“Cavatina”) of the op. 130 string quartet.
The Candlelight Concert Society’s Beethoven quartet cycle continues next month with concerts by the Quatuor Ébène (February 6) and the Artemis Quartet (February 27).
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