Friday, October 02, 2009

The Brentano Quartet. October 1, 2009.

Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, Princeton University. Balcony, Row 1, Center Left.

Mark Steinberg, violin; Serena Canin, violin; Misha Amory, viola; Nina Maria Lee, cello.

String Quartet in G minor, Op. 20, No. 3 by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809).
String Quartet in G major, D. 887 by Franz Schubert (1797-1828).

This was again David's suggestion. Anne had a class on ESL teaching, so I went by myself. The group was David, Vivien, Peter, Melinda, Jim, and myself.

Tonight's attendance was not good at all. The balcony was only half full. We heard the same group at the same location on Oct 18, 2005, and the auditorium was full. So both concerts happened during the school year, I wonder why.

I remarked in the blog for the earlier concert that I wasn't a fan of the quartet. So I consciously tried to listen to the viola every now and then. It is a tiring endeavor: you need to concentrate, and you lose track of the other voices. Let's hope this improves with additional attempts.

Overall I enjoyed the concert. Perhaps it was my active listening, I found the balance between the instruments to be much better than I expected. Not that the first violin wasn't the domineering voice, it was just less so. And every now and then another voice (for tonight it was mostly the cello) would break out into the lead.

The Haydn quartet was written quite early in Haydn's career (Op. 20, when he was about 40 years old). The four movements are: Allegro con spirito; Menuet: Allegretto; Poco adagio; and Finale: Allegro di molto. The note on the piece (written by the violist Misha Amory). This was a relatively short quartet at about 30 minutes. David remarked that it was because they didn't do the repeats. I am not sure whether they did them or not. (They did they in 2005, according to the complaint in my blog.)

The Schubert quartet was a brilliant piece, requiring a lot technically from the players. On top of that they needed to appear as one harmonic group. I thought they did quite well in that regard, Peter thought the cello was hoarding the stage. However, there was confusion every now and then, and I am quite sure the first violin missed his notes and misbowed on a few occasions. I don't have much quarrel with the performance, though.

Mark Steinberg wrote the note on this piece, and (like the last one) it was quite long. He used Schubert writing ("My Dream") to illustrate the composition. What isn't clear to me was whether Schubert was referring to this particular quartet, or Steinberg was trying to fit the quartet into that sort of thinking. In any case, the thesis is that "love" and "pain" are not exclusive. Per Steinberg, there are many "issues" with the music that Schubert decided not to resolve, but instead the music just continued to go on. In that sense it illustrates life: settle, and move on. Interesting, even though it might be made up.

The four movements of this quartet are: Allegro molto moderato; Andante un poco mosso; Scherzo: Allegro vivace; and Allegro assai. The Scherzo and Trio were particularly interesting in the contrast between the two: the scherzo has the usual chaos while the trio is very calm.

This program was put out by the Department of Music of Princeton University.

No comments: