Ginastera: String Quartet No. 2, Op. 26 (1958, Rev. 1968)
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131
Even the best laid plans go off course sometimes, and after the original excitement of my office's move half a block from the historical Trinity Wall Street Church last September, which has theoretically been allowing me to attend their usually intriguing Concerts at One series easily, I must confess that I let stuff like work get in the way of going to those concerts after happily attending a couple of them in October.
But when I heard that the highly regarded Borromeo Quartet would be there to perform Beethoven's one and only "131" as part of the "Revolutionaries" series, which is dedicated to the late works by Beethoven and Ginastera, I was clearly facing a force majeure event and quickly put my priorities back in order. So there I was last Thursday at 1 PM sharp, eagerly waiting for the lunchtime musical interlude to brighten up a drearily gray and wet day in the middle of a drearily gray and wet week.
The rowdy opening of Ginastera's String Quartet No. 2 kicked off the concert with speed and gusto before eventually slowly down, at least for a moment, while still keeping the audience on the edge. The composition is a compelling mix of fire, suspense, melodies and dissonances, which were all on colorful display on Thursday thanks to the impressive technical chops of the four musicians.
Then came Beethoven's String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131, an extraordinary work routinely considered a supreme achievement not only in Beethoven's repertoire, which would be remarkable enough, but in the entire chamber music repertoire as well. Its unusual length, daunting complexity and plain awesomeness reputedly made it a favorite of not only Beethoven himself, but of Schubert and Schumann as well.
So many brilliant ideas keep on popping up throughout the seven widely different and yet organically connected movements that they can easily leave you blissfully dizzy. On the other hand, the piece's intrinsic warmth, vibrant lyricism and emotional directness were beautifully brought out by the fiercely virtuosic Borromeo Quartet, which delivered a thoroughly accomplished and totally accessible performance. I sure wish there were more lunch breaks like this.