Mooredale’s YCM Award Winners Concert reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Sunday, October 31, 2010.

What pleasure when the opening measures of a first listening to a young ensemble promise consummate performance, and that promise is kept! Adrian Fung’s sure hand on the cello guides the Afiara String Quartet into Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” Quartet, Op.59.1, and establishes a tone that becomes a beacon for the voyage through this work and, after intermission, through Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet, Op.57. How good was the Afiara’s Beethoven? The seasoned audience in Walter Hall could not hold back their applause, many people rising out of their seats, after the first movement, the second and the third. As for the Shostakovich, the “Intermezzo:Lento” brought tears to the eye.

Wonny Song sat in at the piano for the Shostakovich and provided a dramatic opening measure which is answered by the Quartet in unison, and when the parts begin to unfold, his piano contributes a  three-note obbligato accompaniment that expresses charm, clarity and light. Mr. Song’s tone is crystalline, and his contribution becomes especially brilliant during the tempestuous “Scherzo” and the boisterous “Finale” when his piano’s slightly dissonant crystal ringing suggests the timbre of a xylophone.

As the featured soloist, Mr. Song performed three short pieces. Chopin’s Barcarolle, Op. 60, a romantic, gently rocking boat song, offers a gentle-paced sensitivity, some more darkly-coloured passionate passages, and a slightly eerie conclusion. The “Andante Spiniato” portion of Op. 22 was pleasing because of Mr. Song’s trademark soft touch that brought out the impressionistic lyricism of the music. His occasional loss of detail in dark ‘forte’ passagework throughout his recital was redeemed by the strong polish he achieved in the headlong runs of the “Polonaise” section.

Since this concert is also something of a celebration, it is worth mentioning that the Afiara String Quartet were the 2nd place winners and the audience favourite at the 2010 Banff International String Quartet Competion, where they also won the Szekely Prize for the best performance of a Beethoven or Schubert Quartet. The Afiara share this year’s Young Canadian Musicians Award with Wonny Song.

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