Wednesday, August 31, 2022

BISQC, day 3

What? What happened to days 1 and 2? Well, I wasn't there. I'm not there now, either.

In another timeline, I'd be spending this week in Banff, Alberta, at the triennial Banff International String Quartet Competition, as I did in 2016 and 2019, having a wonderful time on both occasions. But a combination of issues, mostly covid, led me to decide to bow out, which means I'm at home and can attend Oxonmoot online as well as experience the blinding heat wave we're expecting this weekend.

And I can watch and listen to the BISQC concerts live online, and they also have the concerts that are over with stacked up for listening, though I haven't gotten to those yet and am unlikely to.

My attempts to watch days 1-2, in which each of the 9 participating groups (a tenth had to drop out due to an injury) played one Haydn quartet and one written since 2000, were sporadic. Such Haydn as I heard seemed rather 19th-century in style, and the new works varied between the painfully dull and the provocatively interesting. But I'm not even entirely sure what I was listening to, because I thought maybe the title cards on the videos got mixed up.

Today, 6 of the groups - the rest, Thursday morning - played in two concerts, each offering one quartet from the romantic/nationalist repertoire, approximately 1825-1920. Two of the groups played Mendelssohn's Op. 13, my favorite quartet that meets that description. Both performances were excellent, and I find the difficulty of making fine judgments when you're not there in person stymies me in ranking them. Maybe the Karski Quartet breathed a little more broadly and connected episodes a little more firmly than the Abeo Quartet, but they were both sizzling and dynamic. The fact that I just heard the Abeo in person play this work twice at the Menlo Festival a month ago didn't stop me in the slightest.

A group whose name is the Opus 13 Quartet did not play Op. 13. Instead, they gave Brahms's Op. 51 No. 1 a livelier, bouncier reading than the Balourdet Quartet did with Op. 51 No. 2. The Animato Kwartet (that's how they spell it) seemed to be enjoying Schumann's Op. 41 No. 1 immensely, while the Terra Quartet gave the most amazingly crisp reading of the scherzo of the Debussy Quartet. It sounded more as if it were by Ravel than by Debussy.

BISQC continues through Sunday. So does Oxonmoot, which starts tomorrow. Then there's the Watership Down half-centenary conference, which is also this weekend and which I've also signed up for. How much of any of these I'll get to - how much I'll be awake for - is a doubtful question, especially as much of Oxonmoot is in the middle of the night in this time zone, but then that's often when I'm awake. So we'll see.

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