Tuesday, November 19, 2013

concert reviews

Yes, it was a musical weekend for me. On Friday, the Afiara Quartet, a visiting ensemble at Stanford - whose main concert on Saturday was sold out already, at dear prices - was giving a free noon concert at Campbell, the little recital hall. And it was only half-full! They played one of Haydn's weirder late-middle quartets (Op. 33/3), and one of Dvorak's slightly less garrulous early efforts (Op. 51).

I returned for the first part of a master class they gave later that afternoon, but didn't stay for the whole thing, partly because I wasn't that attracted to the repertoire, but also because, as teachers, the Afiara were more than usually pedagogic. I did get to hear a massively muscular reading of the first movement of Prokofiev's Flute Sonata, though.

Saturday evening I lured B. back to Stanford with me for a Chamber Chorale concert in Memorial Church of unaccompanied "motets of the millennium," kind of the motet version of "1000 years of popular music." I liked the wide variety of repertoire: from the older half of the millennium, Josquin, Ockeghem, and Palestrina (whose gloriously simple Alma redemptoris mater was the highlight of the evening); from the newer, Brahms (yes, Brahms wrote half-a-dozen motets), Bruckner, Frank Martin (one of those "composers' composers" vastly admired by the few people who know his work), and a couple by the guest conductor himself, Jameson Marvin of Harvard. Interesting music, strongly and vividly sung.

I didn't know for sure till Saturday which chamber music I was going to be reviewing Sunday afternoon, piano quintets in San Francisco or string quartets in Berkeley, or, indeed, if I was going to be reviewing anything at all. That made prep more than usually exciting. It finally turned out to be the string quartets, so I drove to the City, picked up the friend I'd invited when I thought that's where I'd be going, turned right, and headed to Berkeley across the new span of the Bay Bridge for the first time during the day. (Awesome open feeling. As a work of art, it meets my approval.)

Here's the review. I felt more than usually a sense of having a specific reaction to the playing but not being sure how best to put it in words. This is the fifth professional review I have written of Beethoven's Op. 132. All right, this work does never get old, especially considering how many different ways there are to play it, but it's outnumbering even the other late Beethoven quartets by 5 to 2, 5 to 1, even 5 to 0. So what's with this, anyway?

And paired with Mendelssohn's Op. 13, making about as dour a pairing as imaginable. Fortunately I know them both well by now, but this did not look to be a really fun concert in the offing. It was, however, interesting and impressive.

No comments:

Post a Comment