Review: Miró Quartet brings remarkable artistry to program for Cleveland Chamber Music Society
By: Donald Rosenberg
The Cleveland Chamber Music Society goes out its way to make sure that chamber music is alive and well in Northeast Ohio. It imports many of the finest artists in the field and reveals the wonders of the art to local children.
The society’s concert Tuesday at Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights neatly summarized its mission. The night began with a salute to Annie Fullard, a faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music and first violinist of the Cavani String Quartet, who was honored for her work as artistic director of the society’s School Outreach Program.
Then it was time for music played on a lofty level. The guest ensemble was the Miro Quartet, which was founded at Oberlin College in 1995 and now serves as string quartet-in-residence at the University of Texas at Austin.
Throughout the concert, the Miro gave lessons in the art of the string quartet, shaping each of the night’s scores with a blend of refinement and vibrancy that drew the listener deeply inside the sonic arguments.
What a remarkable ensemble the Miro is. First violinist Daniel Ching is an artist of prodigious gifts who treats every musical moment as a crucial event. His expressive subtlety and fire are matched by second violinist William Fedkenheuer (the newest member), violist John Largess and cellist Joshua Gindele.
Their exceptional interaction benefited the varied demands of the program’s repertoire, which was almost a history of the string quartet. The night began with the so-called father of the genre, Haydn, whose String Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 33, No. 2, is subtitled “The Joke.”
The punchline doesn’t arrive until the finale, when the music often stops dead in its tracks and takes a big breath before moving on. Prior to this mirth, Haydn is his usual warm-hearted and engaging self, with genial and surprising turns of phrase and harmony that give way to darker implications.
Violist Largess prepared the audience for Philip Glass’ String Quartet No. 5 with remarks that suggested the 1991 score is a challenging experience. But the piece, touched by Glass’ trademark minimalist style, unfolds with intriguing and even poignant approachability.
Accessible doesn’t mean simple, and the Miro players were quick to emphasize the tensions in the repeated figures and contemplative writing. They shaped the swirling rhythmic motives as vividly as they kept the narrative in forward motion.
Brahms’ String Quartet in C minor, Op. 51, No. 1, is an opportunity for an ensemble to go to Romantic excess, but the Miro avoided the temptation. Instead, the musicians placed the score’s warmth and vigor in the most lucid contexts.
As if these stellar performances weren’t enough, the Miro bade farewell with a transcendent encore, the Cavatina from Beethoven’s Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130, which received tender, luminous shading.
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