Fine Arts Quartet’s summer opener
A well-prepared and engaged Fine Arts Quartet opened its annual Summer Evenings of Music series Sunday at UWM.
Violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, violist Nicolò Eugelmi and cellist Wolfgang Laufer played Glazunov’s Five Novelettes, one of their favorite lighter works. Four of the five are caprices on national styles — Alla Spagnuola and All’Ungherese movements frame the piece. Except for No. 3, an expert Romantic take on medieval polyphony, Glazunov contrasts cantabile and dance sections in each novelette. The players drew clear distinctions between the expressive songs and the propulsive dances. They were especially adept with Glazunov’s play of 2/4 and 6/8 in the Orientale.
Guest pianist Christopher Taylor opened the program with Schumann’s picturesque Waldszenen, nine snapshots from an excursion into a forest, including a couple of hunting scenes, a “haunted spot,” forest flowers and so on. Taylor’s sure way with Schumann’s melodic gestures made the slower, freer sections marvelously description. I especially liked the Prophet Bird, in which a sober hymn answered charming flights of avian song.
So much of this music turns on fine shadings of half-steps in the cello. Time and again, Brahms moves his bass note up or down just a bit to change the character of the harmony and thus the tension level. Laufer went just a little finer than half-steps, and his deft placement of pitch did a great deal to tauten the drama over four movements.
Everyone played well and cohesively in this highly charged reading, which went over the top right on schedule, in the climactic finale of the last movement.
The Fine Arts Quartet and assorted friends will play Summer Evenings of Music concert on each of the three remaining Sundays in June at 7:30 p.m. at the UWM Zelazo Center. Click here for details.