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In performance: Emerson Quartet

Web-only review:

Emerson plays fifth quartet by prolific Dillon
by Joan Reinthaler

The Emerson String Quartet introduced Lawrence Dillon's intriguing new Quartet No. 5, "Through the Night," to local audiences at the Smithsonian's Baird Auditorium on Sunday. Commissioned by the Emerson Quartet, the work has now had only three performances since its premiere in Germany in March (his Fourth Quartet was premiered at Wolf Trap in January) and, to soften its arrival, the Emerson cushioned it between two sure-fire hits, the Adagio from Barber's String Quartet, Op. 11, and Beethoven's String Quartet, Op. 127.
(read more after the jump)

Quartet No. 5 is the latest addition to a cycle Dillon has been working on for some time. Each quartet has focused on a particular classical structure (he's already spotlighted scherzos, fugues, song forms and rondos), and this one, in four movements, explores some of the many aspects of the variation. It's done with a light touch, a sense of humor and a gift for translating visual images into their aural reflections. The Emerson Quartet, as might be expected, lent to it a light touch, a sense of humor and all the careful attention to balance and subtle rhythmic and textural shifts it needed to make itself understood.

The familiar Welsh lullaby "All Through the Night" is the theme that underlies each movement: the first, a theme and variations, each one in a different key, the second a chaconne and then a passacaglia and, finally another set of variations. Dillon has a huge repertoire of technical tools on his belt, and he uses them liberally but always sensitively and intelligently.

The Barber opened the evening with a sense of timeless evolution, and, after the careful handling of the Dillon piece, the Emerson sent everyone away happy with a fearless and resounding account of the Beethoven.

-- Joan Reinthaler

By Anne Midgette  |  April 27, 2010; 6:14 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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