Sunday, April 17, 2011

Calder Quartet - Mozart, Beethoven & Janacek - 04/17/11

Mozart: String Quartet in C Major, K. 465, “Dissonance”
Beethoven: String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95, “Serioso”
Janacek: String Quartet No 2, “Intimate Letters”

As if an opera and a symphony were not enough for one weekend, I ventured to the Brooklyn Central Library this afternoon for another one of Carnegie Hall’s popular Neighborhood Concerts. This time, it was the musicians of the Calder Quartet who brought their dark suits, skinny ties, remarkable chops and solid-value program (Mozart, Beethoven and Janacek) to the community event, just two days after appearing at Carnegie Hall for a more esoteric Christopher Rouse-centric concert. Located right a Grand Armor Plaza, the bunker-style library was bustling with activities and the 160-seat auditorium quickly filled up to capacity with a healthily eclectic crowd.

Two weeks after the all-French Quatuor Ebène’s inspired performance of it, I got to hear another take on Mozart’s “Dissonance” piece from the equally skillful all-American Calder Quartet. Today again, the slow, dark opening brilliantly contrasted with the joyful mood and refined elegance that were to ensue. The four string players onstage offered a vivacious and graceful rendition of this lovely work, and I am ready for my third take of it anytime.
After Mozart, we moved on to his obvious successor, Beethoven, with “Serioso”, one of his shortest and most compact quartets. Because of its use of compositional techniques unusual at the time, this work was never meant to be performed in public, but only to a small group of connoisseurs. Luckily for us, it did make it out of its hiding place, and the Calder Quartet made sure to do full justice to its considerable creativity and immense appeal so that everybody in the audience could enjoy it regardless of their musical expertise (or lack thereof).
But the best was yet to come when we bore witness to a burning case of unrequited love from an aging and married Janacek for a just as married woman 38 years his junior. Luckily for the rest of us, this unfortunate situation yielded a major, sizzling work from the Czech composer as he poured the vast majority of the 700 letters he wrote to her into his 30-minute String Quartet No 2, from the most elevated romantic feelings to the most frustrated lustful thoughts. Completely shifting gears after the classicism of the two previous masters, the Calder guys let Janacek's obsessive mood and feverish passion brilliantly flow and concluded the concert with a grand, intensely resonating bang.

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