Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Miró Quartet plus friends excel in music of Hersant, Mendelssohn, and Brahms

(3/4 of the Miros) (Tereza Stanislav - photo by Michael Miller)

The Miró Quartet has been around for 14 years, but they play like they’ve known each other for 30. That’s the incredibly strong impression that this ensemble left with the audience after it concluded a scintillating concert of music by Philippe Hersant, Felix Mendelssohn, and Johannes Brahms on Monday evening (July 13) as part of the Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival.

The Miró Quartet played so well that my concert-going neighbor was flipping back and forth in his program booklet to read and re-read the details about the members of this ensemble. Then he found out that the ensemble was using a substitute because one of it members, second violinist Sandy Yamamoto is on maternity leave. Yamamoto is married to first violinist Daniel Ching, and her replacement, violinist Tereza Stanislav, was superb. But aside from the amazing playing of Ching and violist John Largess, one of the most fascinating things about this ensemble is the ultra-outstanding playing and leadership of cellist Joshua Gindele. Gindele seemed to have every note of the three works that he played memorized, and as he seemed to guide and inspire the ensemble throughout the evening. As a result, the ensemble did an incredible mind meld – surging forward together in both sound and tempo and then pulling back organically – then creating a woody sound – then making the music edgy or soft and tender – or effervescent and brilliant. It was something to behold and admire.

Ching, Largess, and Gindele were joined by flutist Ransom Wilson in Hersant’s “Héliades” for Flute, Violin, Viola, and Cello. Hersant, a French composer, wrote this piece in 2006. “Héliades” has three movements, and each one uses different kind of flute. And whether Wilson played a piccolo, alto flute, or just the regular flute, he made all sorts of fascinating sounds, sometimes fluttering like a bird and at other times adding soothing tones to the mix. The third movement of this piece was especially intriguing in the way that it moved from mournfulness to high tension and drama to a relaxed and sweet ending.

Following the Hersant number, the Miró Quartet gave an absolutely riveting performance of Mendelssohn’s String quartet No. 6 in F Minor, Op. 80. From the incandescent, highly charged opening to the anguished yet hopeful finale, this ensemble took us on a thoroughly engaging and emotionally rewarding ride. It was just thrilling to hear impeccable musicianship and the highest artistry at the same time.

The Quintet in F Minor for Piano and String, Op. 34 by Brahms received a heart-stopping, mind-bending, and totally committed performance by the Miró Quartet and pianist Shai Wosner (with Tereza Stanislav in first chair). They led us through all sorts of musical landscapes from sadness to rousing triumph and everything in between.

The Miró Quartet will perform again this week and early next week. Check the Chamber Music Northwest website for more information.

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