November 14, 2002

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YSHS students Charlie Cromer, left, Paia LaPalombara and Erin Silvert-Noftle rehearsing a scene for the high school's fall play, 'Inspecting Carol,' which opens next weekend, Nov. 21-24, at the Antioch Theater.

Concert review—
A sense of beauty, emotion

By David Mirkin

Playing at the concert celebrating the 20th season of Chamber Music Yellow Springs earlier this month, the Artis String Quartet of Vienna confirmed the local group’s tradition of consistently bringing the highest quality ensembles to town.

The quartet’s program, which took place Sunday, Nov. 3, at the First Presbyterian Church, featured a variety of music by composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Tania Gabrielle French, Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann.

In 1790, at the age of 34, Mozart wrote the Quartet in B flat (K. 589) for the king of Prussia, Frederick William II. Although classical in its general conception, it includes some passages with harmonic elements, contrapuntal and beat accents that seemed restrained, as if Mozart had known that the king was not yet prepared for revolution. Mozart was experimenting and anticipating what Beethoven would feel free to create 30 years later.

During the concert, the first violinist, Peter Schuhmayer, played the piece with a sense of romanticism, impairing somewhat the quality of the sound. The work provides ample opportunity to enjoy the cello part (the king was a decent cellist) and cellist Othmar Müller produced an incomparable rich tone, blending in a supreme way with the violist, Herbert Kefer. Mozart would have enjoyed the performance and so did the audience.

Tania Gabrielle French’s Quartet No. 2, “Communications,” was composed as a birthday gift to the new Hollywood String Quartet and premiered in January 2001. It is a beautifully written piece in four parts: “Giocoso,” “Waltzer,” “Invocation” and “Gossip!,” titles that signal to the listener some of the ideas she conveys in making elegant use of attractive devices like Shostakovichean dissonances and out-of-tune melodies.

The Artis Quartet rendered it with a captivating sonority and a contained emotion without falling into mellifluous melodrama.

The quartet’s performance of Brahms’s Quartet in A minor, Op. 51, No. 2, was inspiring. If there was a listener concerned with perfection in a live concert he was not disappointed.

For an encore, the quartet played the fast movement of Schumann’s 1st String Quartet, Op. 41. It made me think of Talleyrand, who said, “Words were created to hide the sentiments,” because it is impossible to describe the sense of beauty and emotion that a technically difficult piece can generate. The Artis Quartet’s interpretation was exhilarating.