Mendelssohn: String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 13
Puts: Lento assai
Beethoven: String Quartet in F Major, op. 135
As part of the on-going Mendelssohn's birthday celebration in DC this month, last night the Library of Congress presented the Cypress String Quartet, who had a nicely inter-connected program and got to play it on some of the instruments of the Library's prized collection. Beethoven was a major influence to Mendelssohn, and both inspired the quartet to commission Kevin Puts for a piece tipping its hat to the two German musical giants. Altogether, a very compelling selection.
Being the natural melody maker that he was, Mendelssohn's sonata was predictably a delightful combination of attractive harmonies. A fresh and comfortable way to get things started.
Puts was on stage to introduce his work, and briefly explain its coming together. His Lento assai turned out to be the perfect slow movement that was missing in Mendelssohn's piece. Eerily reminiscent of Barber's Adagio for Strings, it made the most of the string instruments' delicate sounds, and the end result was the lovely surprise of the evening.
Beethoven's String Quartet kept us in a light mood, much lighter than some of his other works, and clearly demonstrated his inbred ability to stop the ranting and smell the roses. Although not devoid of intensity, it was for decidedly a happy, occasionally contemplative piece.
But the evening was not over and the encore was the lento movement of Two Sketches on Native American Themes the American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes. The prominence of the cello and viola gave it a somber tone, but the seriousness was gently lightened up by the violins wandering in. A nice final touch to a quietly refined concert.