Tom Strini
Fine Arts Quartet

Two violas, no waiting

The FAQ plays viola quintets by Mozart and Brahms to close its Summer Evenings of Music series.

By - Jun 28th, 2012 11:14 pm

treble-clef-shirtViolist Guillermo Figueroa made five with the Fine Arts Quartet Thursday evening. They took up two big, weighty works, Mozart’s Quintet in D, KV. 593, and Brahms’ Quintet No. 2.

The players brought high intensity and thoughtful detail to bear throughout both works. Cellist Robert Cohen had a clear game plan with the many rising four-note gestures Mozart assigned him at the beginning of KV. 593. Cohen started strong but faded quickly; the last note evaporated like the last inflection of a question asked tentatively. Figueroa, violist Nicolò Eugelmi and violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico answered in vigorous harmony. Cohen continued the Q&A with his mates, but more assertively with each cycle. By the end energy rose to something more like an argument. In either case, the rising tension of that Q&A session broke in the release of the exuberant second theme.

bass-clef-shirtEvans played the brilliant flourishes that burst from that second theme. They sounded like ornaments in the exposition, but they became important structural elements in the development, when everyone passed them around gleefully. But before that, they brought just the right element of suspense to Mozart’s sparse wait-for-it-wait-for-it transition into the development.

Generally, Mozart’s scoring is a little thicker than usual in this quintet. That and the intensity of the players cast it in a Romantic light, especially in the in the dramatic Adagio, set to quivering with furious vibrato. Mozart opens the Minuet with the simplest of themes, practically a nursery rhyme; a few minutes later, counter-melodies entangle and harmonies darken it. Life is like that. The players built huge momentum in the finale, to amplify the crack in the whiplash stops and turns.

viola-shirtThey read the Brahms just a little darker and weightier than the Mozart. Cohen again carried the ball at the outset, this time with a heroic theme over massed chords bristling with trills; they sounded like alarms going off. After that, the lyrical themes that followed in the violas and violins sounded pleading and feminine: You want to be a hero, but please, please don’t go to war! Drama does lie at the core of this piece, and the Fine Arts and friend got to the heart of it. In the middle of the otherwise fierce development, a high, heavenly transformation of that militant cello theme occurs, like a recollection amid a battle.

To continue with this scenario, Brahms’ Adagio, led by Eugelmi’s viola in its darkest timbres, was no aria but a dirge for a funeral procession. The third movement roils as dark and dense as a desperate hike through a deep, scary forest. And then, the middle section: a clearing, sunlight and a miracle, a carousel turning in three-quarter time. What astonishing music. And what a wild ride of a finale, a rondo spinning off on one tangent after another, faster and faster, ending with a crazed polka. Dancing over a cliff — not a bad way to go.

Display image on the Arts and Culture Page: Alto clef shirt, because violas usually read in alto clef. Followed by an exclamation point, because violas are awesome. By the way, you can actually buy all the clef shirts shown here.

This was the final installment of the FAQ’s Summer Evenings of Music series at the UWM Zelazo Center. Keep track of the Fine Arts Quartet and all of Milwaukee’s performing groups. Bookmark Matthew Reddin’s TCD Guide to 2012-13.




0 thoughts on “Fine Arts Quartet: Two violas, no waiting”

  1. Anonymous says:

    A great finale for the summer season!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for commenting, Ralph. — Strini

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