Friday, January 13, 2012

The Amphion String Quartet - Schubert, Beethoven, Read Thomas & Schumann - 01/08/12

Schubert: Quarterttsatz in C Minor
Beethoven: String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95, "Serioso"
Read Thomas: Sun Threads for String Quartet - Eagle at Sunrise and Invocation
Schumann: String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 41, No 3

After some blissfully low-key holidays, 2012 has started rather inconspicuously on the music front with an unexpected but most welcome ticket to the first Schneider Concert of the year featuring the two-year old Amphion String Quartet and a solid program of familiar names such as Schubert, Beethoven and Schumann as well as the Wild Card in contemporary composer Augusta Read Thomas.

Kicking off my new musical year with Schubert’s first and only movement, the Allegro Assai, of his unfinished Twelfth String Quartet, the four musicians onstage immediately proved to be a winning combination of technique and enthusiasm, expertly interjecting short, tension-filled outbursts into one of Schubert’s most pleasing scores. One can only dream of what the other three movements would have sounded like.
Although Beethoven’s Serioso quartet has all traditional four movements, it is a remarkably compact work. Compact – and complex – did not seem to deter the young ensemble, who gave it their all, especially in the wonderfully lyrical Adagio.
Among the classical old masters, the name of Augusta Read Thomas couldn’t but stand out, and so did the two movements we got to hear from her Sun Threads for String Quartet: Eagle at Sunrise and Invocation. The first, in particular, gives repeated opportunities for the cello to shine, and it masterfully did last Sunday. The three other musicians, however, did not slack either and the two pieces gracefully explore the pleasures of pure, organic sounds.
The slow, melancholic opening of Schumann’s String Quartet in A Minor cannot fail to evoke the ghost of Beethoven, who will keep on discreetly appearing throughout the whole work, and most stirringly in the stunning Adagio. Not to be outdone, Mendelssohn, to whom the quartet is dedicated, is vividly present in the wild rhythms of the Scherzo and Finale. Through their unmistakably poised interpretation of it, The Amphion String Quartet decisively concluded this first concert of 2012 on a brilliant, sweeping Romantic note, which can only be a good omen for the remaining of the year.

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