MUSIC TORONTO:QUARTET SERIES reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Thursday, October 19,2006, 8 pm

The ladies of the Lafayette built their performance of Haydn’s Op. 20 No. 2 like a finely wrought 18th Century ormolu mantle clock. They followed with John Burke’s String Quartet(1994)** filling the space of JaneMallett hall with flocks of birds at twilight, swarming, dissolving, and morphing into a school of tropical fish and a storm tormented wheat field. After the intermission, Felix Mendelssohn’s Second String Quartet gave voice to the passion of youthful courtship, like West Side Story unfolding in the Prussian court.

The String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op.13 is Mendelssohn’s extended love song to a mysterious romantic attachment he formed before he was 20. By relying on the technical complexity that the formidable Beethoven was demonstrating in his later quartets, Mendelssohn succeeded in producing a work in which youthful romantic ideas achieved expression in mature classical forms with an effortless that brought the composer instant success with publishers and the public alike.

The Haydn String Quartet in C, Op 20 No. 2 is the composer at the peak of his form, leading the transition of European taste from the formalistic style to the expression of direct feeling. The piece resounds with new harmonic effects, operatic gestures, folk dances, drama, and concludes with a remarkable four-handed fugue.

John Burke’s String Quartet (1994) is also inspired by Beethoven, in this case, the late string quartets “which affirmed, in Burke’s view, the ideal of the medium as a type of “software for transcendence”. The piece was commissioned by The Lafayette String Quartet, this year celebrating its 20th season with its original membership.

The Jane Mallett theatre allows a musical performance to be both intimate and airy: it’s a bit like sitting inside an egg. Outside, after the concert, walking west, one reads that all the lovely old buildings are doomed to be torn down to make way for a condominium/shop complex. It would be elegaic if our theatre were rased and erased.

The Jane Mallett Theatre, 27 Front St. East, Toronto is home to MUSIC TORONTO’S 35th season of CHAMBERMUSIC DOWNTOWN, artistic producer Jennifer Taylor.

For the complete season program visit

This concert’s sponsor was LeDrew|Laishley|Reed LLP

*The Lafayette Quartet is Ann Elliott-Goldschmidt, violinist; Sharon Stanis, violinist; Joanna Hood, violist; Pamela Highbaugh, cellist. The Lafayette has been in residence at the University of Victoria in BC since 1991.

**Born in Toronto in 1951, John Burke studied at McGill and at Michigan. He now lives in Vancouver. The CBC commissioned Burke’s String Quartet for the Lafayette in 1994. It won the Canada Council’s Jules Leger Prize for chamber music that year. He has recently developed an interest in music as a healing medium.

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