News & Reviews

Consummate Ensemble from the Miró in Weill

March 5 | Reviews

By Sonia Tubridy and Nicki Bell for Classical Sonoma

A March 5 Weill hall audience of 350 leaned in to share an intimate musical space and to hear the Miró String Quartet’s sterling concert.

Starting with Haydn's Op. 20, No. 4, the four musicians seemed to want listeners to be enveloped in their music. The Miró plays with the feat of being four distinct individuals with a shared sensibility. Certainly the joy of their playing and of their musical companionship is made an uplifting musical experience. The first movement started with mysterious tone colors and a drum motif that moved the music to unexpected harmonic fields and juxtaposed playfulness with serious character. The pairs of duets among the four strings were balanced and carefully shaped, allowing inner voices to sing in the ensemble. The composer here created a sense of time which is simultaneously fast and leisurely. Phrase endings melted into silence effortlessly.

The second un poco adagio affettuoso movement was played delicately and featured a variety of solos lines in the minor variations. The first was a dialogue between second violin William Fedkenheur and violist John Largess, then an expansive cello variation (Joshua Grindele) followed by dancing triplets from violinist Daniel Ching.

Leading to the end, Haydn provides pianissimo moments leaning into intense dissonances with startling accents and drama.  The allegretto was jolly and full of mischief, the players almost moving to a syncopated dance, interrupted by a lyrical cello interlude, and then tumbled headlong to the final movement. The presto scherzando had ongoing surprises. It started and stopped, became a celebration of gypsy fiddling energy, and sometimes was a concerto with violin solos and was always capricious and vibrant and then came a sudden exuberant ending.

The Brahms C Minor Quartet, Opus 51, No. 1, closed the first half and burst forth with drama and fire. The agitated character of the work is carried in restless fast rhythms, leaping octaves and overlapping voices, searching and frenzied. This is an orchestral world carried by only four string players. The first movement had a frenzied disorder and came to a peaceful resolution in C Major. The second movement (romanzehad a pastoral feel, punctuated by horn calls and restless sections being drawn into the original repose. After a long and beautiful silence where the audience maintained the quiet suspense, the playing in the third movement wove a restless tapestry of shifting minor keys, somewhere between song and dance, neither fast nor slow, and often polyphonic and chromatic. The players produced the sunniness of children's songs in the ambient darkness.

The final allegro movement has strong musical ties to the first movement, but is much more positive in treatment of those motifs. The virtuosic power of composition and of performance was transformative. There was great power and exquisite sweetness. Throughout, the Miró musicians reinforced each other and their interactions brought the joy of their bringing great music to life.

After an intermission, pianist Anne-Marie McDermott joined the Miró for Schumann's Piano Quintet, Op. 44, composed in 1842. Schumann was one of the first composers to combine a string quartet with a piano. This quintet opens with celebratory chord flourishes followed by wistful melodic moments repeated often in the piano. Balance here was excellent, quite a feat for this hall and the challenges of large chamber ensembles. Ms. McDermott had beautiful dynamic control and articulation, bending the rhythms with rubatos for expressive nuance, elegantly supported by her attentive partners.

The second movement was a hushed funeral march in C Minor, changing to poignant lament with otherworldly piano accompaniment, then diabolical cries of anguish and finally resumption of the march in quiet acceptance. Choices of tempo allowed the different moods to speak clearly. The following scherzo was taken at a fiery tempo, one that allowed some loss of detail in the second trio. It was always melodramatic and led with energetic gesture to the last movement. It started with noble musical mood in a slavic influenced theme. There were sighs in the strings, rumbles in the piano, unique syncopated passages and playful interweaving of piano and strings. Near the end, the forward motion stops abruptly, and the piano returns to the opening theme and an exciting double fugue leads to the triumphant ending.

The Schumann had the audience standing for ovations. No encore was given.

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