Thursday, July 15, 2010

Carducci String Quartet. 7/14/2010.

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

Quartet members: Matthew Denton and Michelle Fleming, violins; Eoin Schmidt-Martin,Viola; Emma Denton, cello.

String Quartet Op. 33, No. 2 “The Joke” by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809).
String Quartet No. 2 in E-flat by Ernest Moeran (1894-1950).
String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96 “American” by Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904).

Anne is in Shanghai this week, so I went to this concert “alone”. David and Vivien got the ticket for me and we met up at the auditorium at about 7:15 pm (concert started at 8 pm). I remarked to David and Vivien that most quartets I have heard in concert were heard over the last several years at the Princeton summer series. Chamber music is not high on my list of “likes”. No so much I mind them, just that there is so much orchestral music that appeals to me even more.

In any case, tonight’s quartet consists of two married couples (one could easily tell by their names, unless Emma Denton decided to keep her maiden name). One couple is British, the other Irish. They adopted an Italian town as their namesake in 1997. All the players appear to be in their 30s, so they were very young then.

The Haydn quartet is one of the more balanced ones I have heard, my usual complaint about a quartet being a violin with 3 accompanying instruments isn’t that valid in this instance. Actually the balance for the group is very good, although the cello could be a bit stronger. Given the title of the piece, I kept trying to hear what the joke was. There were a few places that – if one stretched one’s imagination – could be called funny. It turns out the joke was at the very end where in two instances people applauded before the piece ended. To be fair, Haydn just added a couple more phrases to what could be construed as “natural” endings of standard chord sequences. Good thing the audience didn’t take themselves that seriously; or is it now obligatory to applaud at those points – like the tradition of standing up when the Hallelujah Chorus is sung? The movements are (i) Allegro moderato; (ii) Scherzo: Allegro; (iii) Largo; and (iv) Presto.

Moeran was either British or Scottish, and this quartet was published posthumously. People weren’t sure if this was chronologically his first or second quartet as there is no record when this was actually composed. Information courtesy David. We also had a discussion of our favorite (or lack thereof) English composer: Purcell, Elgar, Vaughan Williams. There were quite a few transplants such as Handel and Mendelssohn. Matthew Denton said a few words about how the music started sounding like Elgar and ended like an Irish folk tune. In that regard it was quite interesting, and it didn’t sound what mid-20th century composition would be like. The three movements are (i) Allegro Moderato Ma Ben Animato; (ii) Lento – Vivace – Allegretto – Andante; and (iii) Allegro Vivace. The third movement is so short that it might well be part of the second movement. David thought only two movements were written when the manuscript was discovered.

I was quite sure I hadn’t heard the Dvorak quartet before. Turns out the first movement is very familiar (and melodious). For some reason the quartet sounded a little bit out of tune at the beginning. Perhaps the first two pieces were in E-flat and now a piece in F needed some adjustment on my part? We were wondering whether “American” in the Dvorak piece refers to Native American music (which I know very little about) or Folk American music (a la The New World Symphony). After listening to it, I am quite sure it refers to the latter. The four movements are (i) Allegro ma non troppo; (ii) Lento; (iii) Molto vivace; and (iv) Finale: Vivace ma non troppo.

The quartet played a South American piece (didn’t hear the specifics) that had “whishing” (rapid upwards glissandos) and sandpaper sounds (made by bowing the strings on the other side of the bridge), and a lot of tapping on the keyboard. A fun piece to hear, and – it appears – to play.

All in all a very delightful concert.

No comments: