Chamber Music Houston
Chamber Music Houston NEXT OPENING NOVEMBER 11TH
The Ravel was great, but the Bartok was surprisingly a snooze!
October 21, 2014 — In the last few classical performances I’ve seen, there appears to be a reoccurring theme where an artist or group will perform an introductory two or three pieces, then really wow the audience with a finale. Sometimes these fluff pieces are obscurely modern, or obscurely baroque. Sometimes I’ve heard of the piece before, but it is phoned in and glossed over as secondary to the “real reason” why the audience is here. This seems to the be the case with the program of the Jerusalem Quartet- despite their obvious talent. Sometimes I stop to think to myself— why can’t these guys aim for a 3 out of 3? Why not start the night big, and go out like Godzilla?
The first number of the night is an early Beethoven Quartet in A Minor (Op. 18 no. 5) that could have as likely been a Mozart or a very late Hayden piece. It was enjoyable, the way church music is enjoyable on a Sunday morning (even if you’re an atheist) and well played. At times the first violinist appeared overly showy and disconnected from his brethren and, out of no fault to the musicians, the piece just lacked the mustard we come to love so much in Beethoven. It was passable and well played, with phrasing in the second movement that skipped delightfully for a heartbeat or two. It was a great piece, but we love Beethoven for Beethoven, and not because he could emulate other greats in his earlier years.
I have always been a big fan of Bartok, if occasionally only in idea and not execution. Tonight, when the Jerusalem Quartet played his String Quartet No. 2 Op. 17, it was a night to relish ideas. The piece itself begins percussive, plodding, dark and escalates to a lively thrumming in the second movement. The Jerusalem Quartet just doesn’t seem into it. It is sounds like such a technical, difficult piece to play, and I can assure you that it is definitely a technical and difficult piece to listen to. At points, I wonder if there’s something wrong. Is the second violist angry with the viola for something said during the rehearsal? Is the first violinist having a first quarter life crisis and contemplating a new sports car? Is there something going on here, during this piece of music, that I am missing? I have loved this piece before— why is this happening?!
Then suddenly, after the intermission, there is Ravel. The “real reason” why we are here. Suddenly something happens to these four gentleman on the stage, some of who play upon priceless instruments, maybe they’re excited and looking forward to performing this piece? The first movement of Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major opens and the body language of the players connects the quartet. There is a very different recipe for a good quartet and a great quartet— and suddenly all of the ingredients for greatness is present. Perhaps the violist hated Beethoven and maybe the cellist though Bartok was tastelessly melodramatic, it doesn’t matter now, they all very obviously love Ravel and now I do, too. The first violinist leads the piece through it’s myriad of emotions, a questioning Allegro moderato, an engaging Assez vic, a romantic and questing third movement, and the well known and melodramatic fourth. All players give their all, and for a good fifteen minutes we hear a true quartet, as opposed to a collection of players.
Then for dessert they played Debussy’s saccharine Andantino movement from Debussy’s Quartet. It couldn’t have been a more perfect pairing.
Miró Quartet / Chamber Music Houston
Tuesday, September 16, 2014; 7:30 pm
Rice University Campus, Houston, TX
New Season, New Name, New Experience
Houston Friends of Chamber Music now is friendless, as my husband says. Ha ha! They’re rebranding: Chamber Music Houston. Still same incredible concert experience in Stude Concert Hall in the Alice Pratt Brown Hall on Rice University’s Campus.
When you arrive on campus; have your credit card handy for rock star parking right across the street! There is usually fine staff ready to assist you in this endeavor, ensuring the arm of the parking lot device opens for you, event in the rain. Easy parking: Event parking is available directly in front of the concert hall building at the discounted price of $4, in Lot 1 and 4. A major credit card is required for entry. Best entrances are: Entrance #17 and #18 (Rice Blvd) and entrance #8 (University Blvd).
You walk across a street and up some low stairs to the incredible Alice Pratt Brown Hall. Light dining/snacking: Salento Wine Cafe offers a selection of food and drinks before the concert and at intermission Doors do NOT open early, as most of the amazing ensembles are still rehearsing in the incredible venue. There are plenty of restrooms on either end of the hallways.
Tickets are now being checked inside the concert hall. After that due diligence, be sure and secure a program. The information about the ensemble and the selections will enhance your listening pleasure and heighten what your senses need to be aware of during the concert.
Bring your best ears/listening skills. It is human nature of anyone on stage to believe he or she is easily heard throughout a hall while describing the music, their experience or other interesting facts. Usually they are talking too fast, talk over laughter and are not quite sure of the projection needed to reach all the seats clearly.
There is no bad seat in the house. Even behind the stage for large crowds offers a great perspective. The seats are comfortable and most audience members understand not to chat or text.
The Miró Quartet has roots in Austin Texas! Read more about them, www.miroquartet.com/
An enthusiastic crowd of almost 600 were on hand for Haydn’s String Quartet in D Minor, Op.76, No. 2 Fifths, the unique Gunther Schuller’s new String Quartet No. 5 (2013), concluding with a show stopping Schubert Quartet in D Minor.
The ensemble truly took their audience for a wild ride through a variety of music. Even if you didn’t particularly like the selection, their dexterity, nuance and talent led you to an interesting, enjoyable experience.
Yes, we were on our feet following their final notes, I hope they return.
The only sad aspect of these concerts is there is the single opportunity for you to attend. However, this organization invites the finest ensembles, so if you have the opportunity to hear them elsewhere, many travel extensively, voila!
Next Chamber Music Houston offering is the Jerusalem Quartet, Tuesday October 21, 7:30 pm http://chambermusichouston.org/