Resounding Strings: Quartets Highlight Second Half of Great Performers

Classic Arts Features   Resounding Strings: Quartets Highlight Second Half of Great Performers
 
Great Performers shines a spotlight on the string quartet this winter with concerts by a returning favorite and a new, free series featuring four rising ensembles.

The internationally acclaimed Takšcs Quartet returns to Alice Tully Hall with two programs, February 26 and March 19, joined by violist Lawrence Power and pianist Joyce Yang, respectively.

This January, Great Performers launched a new series, Complimentary Classical, that showcases four of today's leading young quartets: three American, one British. The free, hour-long concerts take place in the relaxed, informal setting of the David Rubenstein Atrium, where audiences can get close to the music-making and enjoy refreshments from 'wichcraft caf_. The ensembles represent the next generation of chamber music virtuosos: Daedalus Quartet (February 19), Heath Quartet (March 26), and JACK Quartet (April 23). Their varied programs range from gems of the established repertoire to provocative and boundary-breaking new works. The series began on January 22 with a concert by the Calidore String Quartet. Whether the music is by Beethoven, John Zorn, or Caroline Shaw, Complimentary Classical promises discoveries.

The Takšcs Quartet: violinists Edward Dusinberre and Kšroly Schranz, violist Geraldine Walther, and cellist Andršs Fej_r: last appeared at Great Performers in 2012 _13. Founded in Budapest in 1975, the quartet's exuberance belies its 40 years. Yet its probing musicality and undeniable insight into chamber music literature, ranging from Haydn to Benjamin Britten, is born of enviable longevity.

In February, English violist Lawrence Power joins the Takšcs for a performance of Mozart's String Quintet in G minor, K.516. Mozart, who played the viola as well as the violin, had a special affinity for the alto voice of the string family, which is demonstrated in a quintet scoring whose second- viola part affords singularly rich sonorities. This string quintet, like the others written by the composer in the late 1780s and early 1790s, stands as a capstone to his chamber music. And few works in Mozart's oeuvre reflect such impassioned expression and profundity that touches upon despair. For this extraordinary quintet, the Takšcs may have no finer collaborator: or Mozart an exponent: than Power, described by The Observer as possessing "a tone as dark as a cello and a technique as agile as a violinist." The program also includes Beethoven's String Quartet in F major, Op. 59 ("Razumovsky"), and Schubert's Quartettsatz in C minor, D.703: the single movement of a string quartet the composer left unfinished.

Pianist Joyce Yang joins the Takšcs Quartet in March for a performance of the Dvořšk Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81. The pianist's association with: and regard for: the Takšcs goes back to age 19, when as the youngest contestant in the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2005, she played with the ensemble in the semifinal round and went on to receive the competition's silver medal. About the experience, Yang has said, "I wanted to get to the semifinals,that was my goal, because I was dying to play with the Takšcs, my favorite quartet in the world." The work she played with the Takšcs at the Cliburn was Dvořšk's Piano Quintet. Since then, Yang and the Takšcs have been frequent collaborators on the world's concert stages.

The Daedalus Quartet, 2007 winners of the Martin E. Segal Award given annually by Lincoln Center to rising young artists, is familiar to audiences here for its appearances at the Mostly Mozart Festival and performances with Chamber Music Society Two. The ensemble: Min-Young Kim and Matilda Kaul, violins; Jessica Thompson, viola; and Thomas Kraines, cello: is known for its embrace of adventurous 20th- and 21st-century repertoire and has premiered works by Joan Hightower, David Horne, and Thomas Wernick, among others. The quartet's February 19 program features Bart‹k's pathbreaking Quartet No. 2 and Sibelius' "Intimate Voices," the composer's only mature string quartet.

A new series Complimentary Classical promises discoveries. The Heath Quartet was formed at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England. Its March 26 program contrasts one of Beethoven's late, monumental string quartets, the expansive seven-movement Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, with Janšček's String Quartet No. 2, "Intimate Letters," inspired by the composer's obsessive relationship with his muse, Kamila St‹sslovš. The quartets looking forward to performing in the Atrium. Says first violinist Oliver Heath, "People come to a performance in such settings with slightly different expectations. I think they listen differently, and we feel there is a closer relationship between the audience and us. We are all in it together."

The members of JACK Quartet (the name is an acronym of its members' first names) met at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. They are advocates of contemporary music, commissioning and performing new works, and championing 20th- century repertoire, from the quartets of Iannis Xenakis to Ruth Crawford Seeger's modernist masterpiece String Quartet "1931," the latter included on JACK's April 23 program. Violist John Pickford Richards says, "Our concert will include works by composers whose music reflects different kinds of language, styles, and genres. Missy Mazzoli's Death Valley Junction is a multi-sectional, single-movement work, while Caroline Shaw's piece is an iteration of her Ritornello, itself inspired by Monteverdi's Orfeo." The JACK Quartet's program exemplifies the best tendencies of the contemporary avant-garde, work that is complex, yet accessible. It is the music of now and new expressive possibilities.

In the coming months, the sweeping possibilities of the string quartet will be given rich and myriad expression by all of these incomparable artists appearing at Lincoln Center.

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