Saturday, March 31, 2012

concert review: Borromeo Quartet

All the cool kids are going to see Abel Gance's Napoleon with the live orchestra this weekend. Not me. I professed uninterest in an epic unfinished silent film about Napoleon when it first re-emerged many years ago at a length of 4 hours. I'm no more interested in it now at five and a half hours and still unfinished.

Instead, I heard the Borromeo Quartet play the Beethoven Razumovsky Third - yes, that again - from the original manuscript score. And watched them, too, as they had the score - here it is in a big PDF - displayed on laptop computers on their music stands, and it also appeared on a large screen facing the audience.

This was the second time I'd attended a concert at which the score was displayed to the audience. The first time was at an SFS performance of In C a dozen years ago. On that occasion the purpose for doing so was to allow members of the audience - In C is a participatory work - to play along. But the score was in print and is only two pages long for a 45-minute work. A score for a big classical string quartet is considerably longer than that.

On this occasion, I had to devote so much attention to trying to follow Beethoven's illegible scrawls that I had none left to devote to considering the quality of the performance. I think it was pretty good.

With computer but without audience-readable projection were a piece of fragmented modernism by somebody named Stephen Jaffe, thoroughly uninteresting; Bach's C-minor passacaglia BWV 582, very well arranged by the first violinist and played with a gleaming sheen wonderful to hear; and an encore in the form of Brahms' choral prelude no. 8, another arranged organ work, just as good.

The venue was St. Luke's in Los Gatos, the last remaining building in that quarter of downtown dating from before the yuppies took over. The location afforded us the opportunity for modestly upscale Mexican dining and some exceedingly upscale window-shopping before the concert.

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