Miró Quartet Saves the Day for the La Jolla Music Society

February 20 | Reviews

By Ken Herman for San Diego Story

Photo by Ken Jacques

When the French chamber ensemble the Arod Quartet had to cancel their scheduled February 17 La Jolla Music Society concert because of visa problems, the Miró Quartet quickly agreed to take their place on La Jolla’s busy performance schedule.

Miró is well-known and appreciated in La Jolla. In the 2022 La Jolla SummerFest, they played a pair of adventurous programs with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, presenting several of her works and even inviting Shaw on viola to join them in the Mendelssohn String Quintet in B-flat Major.

Grateful that Miró came to La Jolla’s rescue on Saturday, it would be churlish of me to complain about the conservative program of Haydn, Dvořák, and Brahms they played at The Conrad. But the reward of this program was enjoying Miró’s interpretive prowess and their many insights into familiar styles.

The Miró Quartet opened with Haydn’s String Quartet in G Major, Op. 77, No. 1, the penultimate string quartet of his amazing body of 83 string quartets. From the first notes of the opening “Allergo Moderato,” the quartet reveled in the composer’s high-spirited themes, offering athletic articulations and an aptly radiant sonority. In the relaxed “Adagio,” the players revealed the composer’s more intimate, confessional tone, expressed with beautifully shaded dynamics. First violinist Daniel Ching dominated the ensemble, but gracefully, setting the bar for his colleagues violinist William Fedkenheuer, violist John Largess, and cellist Joshua Gindele. Haydn boldly completes his string quartet with two “Presto” movements, offering a “Minuet” at breakneck speed that does not sacrifice its dignified dance contours.

I cannot think other works for string quartet that are anything like Antonín Dvořák’s Cypresses, a set of 12 miniatures based on unpublished Czech songs the composer had written early in his career. Miró chose five of these gems, lavishing on them the group’s sweetest timbres and most ingratiating phrasing. “In Deepest Forest Glade I Stand” creates a wistful, pastoral scene, while “When Thy Sweet Glances Fall on Me” suggests an ardent billet-doux delivered on delicate pizzicato motifs exquisitely crafted by cellist Gindele. In “Thou Only, Dear One,” violist Largess tenderly rendered its endearing cantabile themes, answered with equal affection and polish by violinist Fedkenheuer.

Like the late Beethoven string quartets, Brahms’ C Minor String Quartet, Op. 51, No. 1, is earnest almost to a fault, although its structure is nothing short of dazzling. The opening “Allegro” rarely yields in its dense contrapuntal character, but Miró offered soulful balm in the “Adagio.” Their rapturous account of the “Allegretto” proved the highlight of the evening, with their bravura account of the “Allegro” finale acting as a worthy summary of the evening’s artistry.

The encore was an arrangement of Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow.”

This concert was presented by the La Jolla Music Society on February 17, 2024, in La Jolla’s Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.

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