Monday, 17 October 2011

Miró Quartet... Magnifico!

San Miguel de Allende's Chamber Music Festival – from July 29th till August 14th 2011
                                                      Review by Nancy Snipper

On Thursday, August 4, inside the Angela Peralta Theatre, the Miró Quartet enthralled the audience with their virtuoso performance of works by Schubert, Glass and Brahms.  It was a daring program given the remarkable difference in compositional structure inherent in each piece.  The evening showcased the quartet's mastery of both the contemporary and classical.  Not even the rigorous demands of Phillip Glass' String Quartet #5 - the second piece in the program – caused even the slightest unevenness of execution. Never once did intricate technique overshadow the piece's dreamy expressiveness. It all seemed effortless. Yet only the most confident of chamber music ensembles would tackle such a piece.

"This piece requires great stamina and it lasts for over 30 minutes without a break during the playing," said cellist, Joshua Gindele who anchored the entire piece with consistently repetitive legato note bowing with miniscule melody variation. Like a metronome, Gindele perfectly anchored the rest of the ensemble, allowing the two violins and viola to play out a melodic line that magically created a myriad of moods.  We embarked on an exciting emotional journey, despite the subtle hints of harmony within the progressive bar modulations.
"Glass is a minimalist. The melody doesn't change dramatically, yet he is able to take us through feelings of sadness, joy, hope, angst and more. We'll let you decide what the final answer is to the first question Glass asks through his music at the beginning of this piece," said violist, John Largess, who has been a member of the Miró Quartet for 14 years.
Noting that his favourite piece to perform in the program was Schubert's, Quarttsatz in C minor, D 703, and Largess likened the lively number to a salad: "I love playing the Schubert. It's like a spicy salad, nutty, refreshing and full of lots of different ingredients."
 First violinist, Daniel Ching agreed: "It really is fun and it's a great piece to open up with as it is not long, and it has so many variations of rhythms and melody. In fact, it so successfully started the night off that the audience seemed to want another movement played in the composition - given the thunderous applause that followed the short piece.
"Schubert didn't continue composing more of the piece because he didn't like what he had written, so he just didn't finish it," explained second violinist, Teresa Stanislav adding she had little rehearsal time with the quartet, as she was asked  to join them for the Chamber Music Festival  quite recently.
Her playing was flawless. With astounding precision and exquisite expressiveness, she joined Ching, masterfully supporting his powerful playing throughout the entire program.

Their synchronicity was vividly and impressively illustrated in the Brahms' number: String Quartet in C minor Op. 51, No.1. A rich potpourri of polyphonic rhythms and melodies were beautifully sustained as both violinists intertwined the elements. Largess admitted the piece was thick with a lot going on. "Still, it is one of my favourites, but there is a lot of musical meandering and we all want to make sure on how to interpret this."
Revealing that there is no real leader of the ensemble, Largess revealed: "We discuss the piece and often pass the ball over to the other to hear what each of us has to say. We just want to make sure the story in the music comes through. Sometimes, we don’t always agree, but that's what makes it dynamic - to hear another way of interpreting a line of music. "Laughing with great gusto Largess added, "We use our egos for the good."
The audience was in love with the evening's performance; the applause wouldn't stop until the quartet reappeared for an encore. They chose Beethoven's Opus 135 Assai lento Cantantes tranquilo. It was Beethoven's final quartet, in fact, his last piece ever. So moving in its calmness at the beginning, yet interjected by a sudden rise of forte notes expressing  pain and anguish, this utterly profound piece left the audience speechless for a second or two after the last note found its soulful finish.  The ensuing applause reached its own crescendo.
The Miró Quartet has garnered several prestigious prizes, including the Avery Fisher Career Grant, the only ensemble ever to be awarded such as honour. Founded in 1995, one can only imagine how many of us have been inspired by their performances. After all, they have played in all the world's concert halls. One can only imagine how many of us have been inspired by their incomparable performances.  No wonder, they took their name from the Spanish painter, who according to Largess was, "Fresh, inventive, colourful and wonderful!"

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