The Friends of Chamber Music's audience at the Folly Theater witnessed an incredible performance of Dvořák, Vasks, and Tchaikovsky string quartets by the world-renowned Artemis Quartet.
Widely recognized as one of the foremost quartets in the world, the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet was founded in 1989, and is known for its virtuosity and its musicality. Though especially noted for its performances and recordings of the complete Beethoven string quartets, they also focus on contemporary music. The Quartet consists of four outstanding musicians: Vineta Sareika and Gregor Sigl on violin, Friedemann Weigle on viola, and Eckart Runge on cello.
The Artemis Quartet presented a program of three pieces for its Friends of Chamber Music performance, beginning with Dvořák’s “American” String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96. Dvořák wrote the “American” quartet during his stay in Spillville, Iowa where he was vacationing amongst Czech-born residents. One of his most popular quartets, this piece includes a mixture of African-American, Native American, and Czech harmonies and rhythms, and also reveals a connection to American folk song with the folk-like melodies in each of the movements. The Quartet’s fresh and thrilling performance of this piece resulted from its innate sense of phrasing, a clear and crisp sound, and rhythmic accuracy. Its style of playing allows for multiple ways of expressiveness in the music above the forward moving pulse of the piece. The blend between instruments was phenomenal. First Violinist Sareika led the ensemble with exceptional and eloquent playing. Unfortunately there were some hearing aid disturbances throughout the Dvořák, but they were resolved before the second piece.
The program continued with Pēteris Vasks's String Quartet No. 5. The Latvian composer began as a violinist but switched to double bass. Originally written for the Kronos Quartet in 2004, the piece is in two movements. High emotional tension encompasses the first movement, “being present,” whereas the second movement, “so distant...yet near,” includes quiet and unhurried passages among emotional drama ending with a funeral march as the instruments slowly die away. The Artemis achieved such a quiet dynamic, its pianissimo at the end was extraordinary.
The last piece was Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11. Known as the first major Russian string quartet, this piece incorporates a Russian nationalist approach to folk song with simple harmonies and counterpoint. The melody of the Andanteis a beloved folk tune based on a theme Tchaikovsky heard at his family’s summer home in Kamenka. This movement became so popular that it was arranged for other instrumental combinations.
In the Finale, the Quartet took a quick and lively tempo as it achieved a wonderful balance of accompaniment and the melodic lines. The group maintained continuous flow of the music while driving through to an exhilarating ending. It was exciting to watch the Artemis Quartet perform with exquisite sense of poise and presence on stage along with superb control of their instruments and the music.
The Friends of Chamber Music
Saturday, April 18, 2015
300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, MO
For tickets, call 816-561-9999 or visit http://www.chambermusic.org