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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Spring Breakdown 2016: Chamber Music

Great music with an accent on the intimate.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Attacca Quartet goes underground
Photo by Andrew Ousley.
Sometimes music is best in small groups. With that in mind, Superconductor looks at intimate performances by three or more players, some of which were in decidedly unusual locations, like a crypt deep under a Harlem church, the upper level of a YMHA, or even...Carnegie Hall. Here's the best of chamber music from the spring of 2016.

As always with these roundup list-type articles, the links go to complete reviews and all quotes are drawn from Superconductor and are by yours truly, Paul J. Pelkonen. Enjoy.

The Jerusalem Quartet plays Beethoven
"Quartet No. 6 is the joker in the pack. Dialogue between Mr. Pavlovsky and Mr. Zlotnikov began the work, launching an exploratory sonata movement that weighed the home key of B flat major against its tonic and dominant in a mastery of form. The Adagio sounded mournful despite its key of E flat major, a prelude of the storm to come. The powerful cross-rhythms of the Scherzo hunted at the muscular symphonic dance movements that Beethoven would unleash in his "Heroic" period."

Carnegie Hall: Brahms Piano Quartets
"This was the first real highlight of this concert, as the little group combined to create a sense of profound serenity in the music, reaching through the notes and bars for a satisfying emotional truth. The fast finale found Brahms indulging in his love of European ethnic music, with its upward runs for the strings and pell-mell rhythms for the piano evoking a wild, celebratory energy that challenged the players and invigorated the audience."

Trinity Church: 1B1 plays Ginastera and Strauss
"The players of 1B1 are young and enthusiastic, clad not in the usual black but in a riotous rainbow of concert gowns that reflect their individual personalities and taste. Yet they play in superb unison, a taut, well trained sound that can be at one moment sere and bright and the next lush and swelling. They also play standing up, with the exception of the cellos--a throwback to the Italian Renaissance style that has become the fashion among 21st century chamber musicians."

NY Phil Biennial: The JACK Quartet
"Contrary to a popular meme right now that refers to orchestras as "1800s cover bands", this was very much music of the 21st century, with all three composers on the program very much alive (and two of them seated in the audience.) The three pieces were performed without intermission in a darkened room that invited concentration and focus and a bright acoustic that made the music bloom."

The Crypt Sessions: The Attacca Quartet
"From the first notes, the cthonic setting enhanced the tone and power of the players, acting as a sort of natural amplifier without causing distortion of any kind. The slight echo of the vault made each of the four instruments sound firm and resonant,  with the ostinatos played by cello and viola having the thunderous power of a Stravinsky ballet."

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