Saturday, March 28, 2009

New Zealand String Quartet - Mendelssohn, Whitehead & Schubert - 03/27/09

Mendelssohn: String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 44, No 2
Whitehead: "Hineputehue" for string quartet and taonga puoro (Maori instruments)
Schubert: String Quartet in G Major, D. 887

To end another busy week, I was back with great pleasure at the Library of Congress for a quiet break between Prokofiev's Symphony No 5 the night before at Strathmore and his Symphonies No 1 and 6 scheduled for tomorrow at the Kennedy Center. And the line-up looked quite interesting indeed. Bookmarked between the go-back-to-basics music of Mendelssohn and Schubert was a contemporary piece for a string quartet and Maori instruments. The New Zealand String Quartet has built an excellent reputation over the past two decades throughout the world and seemed perfectly appropriate for such an intriguing program.

The ensemble may be a quartet of old pros, but they sure brought out all the quintessential freshness of Mendelssohn's early work. The Scherzo, especially, was all youthful joy and the following Andante beautifully lyrical. All standing up, except for the cellist who was sitting on a small platform, they played the traditional romantic music with much gusto.
After the melodic predictability of Mendelssohn, we were off to the realm of New Zealand's godess of peace. Written for string and Maori instruments, Hineputehue was a quietly engaging compositions of mostly exotic wind and string sounds, sometimes intertwined, sometimes interspersed. All of this resulted in the eerie feeling of spending the night in the desert, an impression reinforced as the light and music eventually slowy faded in unison and all was left was cosmic silent.
After the short excusion down-under, we were back on much more familiar territory with good old Schubert. Although not as popular as some of his other works, it was lovely piece performed with much finesse, and beautifully concluded another elating Friday evening in the Coolidge Auditorium.

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