Saturday, April 18, 2009

WPAS - Tokyo String Quartet - Haydn, Beethoven & Schubert - 04/17/09

Haydn: String Quartet in G Major, Op. 76, No 1
Beethoven: String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 18, No 4
Schubert: String Quartet in C Major, op. 163, D. 956 - Lynn Harrell

As heartbreaking as it was to miss Leonidas Kavakos play Tchaikovsky's dazzling violin concerto with the NSO at the Kennedy Center last night, I had to decide in favor of the Tokyo String Quartet when I heard that Schubert's magnificent String Quintet, with no less than Lynn Harrell as the second cello, was on their program. And I get to hear Kavakos play Mendelssohn's equally dazzling violin concerto tonight, which of course means I'll miss Quatuor Mosaïques at the Library of Congress, but let's not dwell on it... By all accounts one of the world's premier chamber music ensembles, the Tokyo String Quartet has gained its pristine reputation by touring and being musically active in various capacities for almost 40 years now, and they're still going as strong as ever. Their special guest, Lynn Harrell, has had just as prestigious a career and doesn't seem to even think of slowing down either. All the better for us.

The concert started with a string quartet by Haydn, which was a graceful introduction to more substantial fare. After a slow and dark beginning, it eventually ended a happy note, and got us in the mood for more.
The string quartet by Beethoven was a pretty energetic affair, easily switching from one mood to another at a sustained pace. It was also quite interesting to see how the former influenced the latter, which was written only two years later.
But the pièce de resistance came after the intermission, and the five musicians demonstrated one more time, as if it were necessary, what a sheer wonder of music, not just chamber music, Schubert's String Quintet in C Major truly is. Retrospectively, it is easy to say that Schubert may have been able to tell his life was getting close to its end and decided to compose a quintet encompassing all his experiences, but while the extra cello does give the piece an overall darker tone, it is also a work exuding life-affirming lyricism, so the debate goes on. One thing, however, is for sure, and it is that from beginning to end the quintet is enough of a wealth of richness and musicality to gloriously fill a short hour of the audience's life, and yesterday's concert was no exception. It is easy to single out the Adagio as the high point because it is such a little miracle in itself, but the whole performance was a real gift that kept on giving. Arigato!

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