CHAMBERFEST ‘07 : by Stanley Fefferman. An Illustrated Diary. Page 4

Tuesday, July 24, 8 pm.
Moscow String Quartet

Beethoven: “String Quartet 5 in A major, opus 18, no.5.”

The introduction to the ‘Allegro’ opens with individualistic bold strokes and a flowing, natural, birdsong-like melody. This is followed by a more socially solid ensemble passage — the music of humanity — strongly led by first violinist Eugenia Alikhanova.

The development section projects a sense of structure, balance of masses, largeness and light: there is also palpable tenderness. The prevailing tone is of an ideal social harmony that is roomy and allows for experiment and invention.

The 2nd movement is marked ‘Menuetto’.The players emanate a feminine and light-footed energy:finely textured harmonic lines somewhat shaded by bolder, darkish strokes, out of which more potent elements announce themselves and are integrated into the social whole: the ensemble breathes like the bellows of an accordion. The sense of dance, the ‘Menuetto’ is recalled in the recapitualation, with a return to the feminine lightness, but more firmly grounded.

The 3rd movement is Andante cantabile. The first violinist smiles, as in the photograph, anticipating pleasure. The slow, lyrical passage of two balanced phrases is repeated. There is a sense of peace, not generalized, but with a strong sense of identity. Somehow, the word ‘paradisal’ comes to mind.

The development section proceeds by counterpoint—suggesting an intellectual discussion that is lighthearted but requiring concentration to follow: the people are lifted up by it. Peace flows in the return to the paradisal theme containing a sense of brainpower as well as birdsong.

The movement concludes with some amazingly deep and rich sounds, beginning with the march of a band on parade moving through the town to the beat of the bass drums and trombones. In the coda, this outburst of unrestrained display is restated in a politer way, as an elegant conversation.

The ‘Finale’ is brought in by a conversation between viola and first violin. It is quick and detailed, like coffeehouse buzz about the latest things. In the midst of the excitement is something calm and enduring. The conclusion is a soft landing, like a surprise withdrawal of resources that leaves a refreshing space.

Galina Kokhanovskaia……. Olga Ogranovich ……..Tatiana Kokhanovskaia

…….(Please click on any of these images to see an enlarged version)……

Beethoven. String Quartet# 8 in E minor, opus 59, no. 2.

After the initial pair of forceful chords comes a lyrical motif that is repeated, variously voiced, developed, and is abruptly cut off by a passage that is serious and deep. This passage possesses the sound of a narrative that is dramatic with possibly buried in it a tragic episode that becomes the subject of comment by a chorus of voices.

The conversation seems to indicate a struggle, as of an individual voice moving towards some momentous public declaration. The chorus seems to offer a sympathetic ear to the individual, who does not respond, but continues to send out signals of alarm. One hears a ‘Promethean’ sense developing in a pastoral setting, as if an epochal revolution were being born in a rural village.

The pastoral or Arcadian space expands to ‘Olympian’ and ‘Titan’ proportions. Here Beethoven prefigures the celestial halls of Wagner, and the locomotive energy as of an engine pulling the carriage in which rides old world grace. The movement closes peacefully, keeping the lid on.

The ‘Adagio begins with a slow Shostakovitchian theme: pastoral, but tense underneath: peace pregnant with conflict. The solo voice of the first violin is repetitive, monotonous and tense; the remaining strings, in unison chorus are soothing and absorbent. As if mollified, the solo first violin relaxes into a lyrical utterance and rejoins the unison harmony. The solo viola’s rich voice continues to soothe, encouraging the first violin to lyricise solo in rich orchestral tones that verge on a state of ecstasy.

The ecstatic flow is breached by a dissonance, an old woe, and the dark toned cello develops a recurrent argumentative motif. The response of the ensemble is to absorb the cello’s dissonant concert into a rising harmonic accompaniment of gentle, sympathetic voices. The first violin retakes the lead to restate the order of things and brings the movement to a generous space of relaxation and rest.

The third movement, ‘Allegretto’ is an interlude, brief and light. In the service of this lightness, all the players demonstrate a touch of bow on string that is magically buoyant and strong as feathers.

The ‘Finale’ marked ‘Presto’ repeats thematic elements of the first movement in a mood that is optimistic and carefree as a ride on a trotter. Not a trace of discord. The spirit of youthfulness develops cohesion and force.

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