FINE ARTS QUARTET review by Stanley Fefferman

Thursday, February 8
Music Toronto presents
Jane Mallett Theatre

Their tone is warm, rich, colourful, bringing out the glow behind the sparkle of Mozart’s “String Quartet in B-flat, K.458 (“The Hunt”). Wolfgang Laufer’s cello during the first movement’s exposition is slower than I remember versions by the Quartetto Italiano and Arthur Grimaud, with a mood of melancholy flowing around the hoppy hunt rhythms, suggesting romance more than the excitement of the hunt.

One begins to listen with new ears, recalling that Mozart is more contemporary to the early Romantics like Herder, Blake and Ossian (McPherson) than he is to Haydn, the dedicatee of this piece. In Mozart’s music, from this listening, one can hear more wave forms than Olympian structures.

Normally, the leap in contrast from Mozart to Shostakovich would be daunting, but not in this case. The firmness of the Quartet’s tone is scrawled like a signature across both pieces. This F-Minor composition, in seven, short, linked movements, is introduced by Efim Boico’s violin solo and the other instruments join in like thick daubs of a palette-knife in a Franz Kline painting. The lyric melody of Ralph Evans’ violin introduces a querulous note that is picked up by Yuri Gandelman’s viola and somehow infects the chorus with a sense of questioning.

One has the sense of Mother Russia and her suffering peoples being urged on by several independent, individual voices that are not so much saying something but rather are making intelligible sounds.

Mendelssohn’s “Quartet in D, Op.44 No.1″, a youthful work from the composer’s happiest days of success in love, marriage and career, comes across as a more dynamic kind of music than one would expect, with a poetic undertone that hints at emotions deeper than gaiety and well-being. There is a heightened sense of drama in he exquisitely lyrical pizzicato cello of the third movement that modulates into a drone as the movement finishes to the pizzicato plucking of the other strings.

Without question, The Fine Arts Quartet has something that touches the imagination, as if they were possessed of a Keatsian “Negative Capability” that allows them to put off who they are and to give expression to the music as it is.

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