Summer Evenings 3
UWM's string quartet offers Chopin concerto reduced, here-and-gone Stravinsky, sublime Ravel.
Two curiosities adorned the Fine Arts Quartet’s third Summer Evening of Music, given Sunday at UWM’s Zelazo Center.
Pianist Xiayin Wang joined violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, cellist Robert Cohen and summer-guest violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez in Richard Hofman’s arrangement of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Opus 11. Pianists and orchestras play this concerto all the time, so the particular need to unearth this vintage Richard Hofmann arrangement escapes me. Maybe the fellows just wanted something to play with this talented young pianist.
The orchestra part is fairly rudimentary and lends itself to reduction, but Sunday we heard something uncomfortably between concerto and chamber music. If anything, putting the whole orchestra on four players further highlights the mismatch between the piano and the uninteresting music for the orchestra. The first movement, especially, sounded awkward, as Wang made no pretense of chamber music and played as if the Berlin Philharmonic were arrayed behind her. Chopin wrote much more intimate music for the second movement, and it fell more naturally into the scale of the quartet and made for a lovely effect overall. Wang brought out the enchantment of Chopin, the dreaminess of melodies that seem to float incorporeal and free of the prerogatives of time, which the quartet sustained far below, back on earth. Wang did adjust to chamber scale in the potentially rowdy finale, which came off as vigorous but charming, well within the bounds of propriety.
A good performance of Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major raises visions of summer days, shimmering waves, sunlit gardens at peak. The Fine Arts Quartet spoke to the ecstatic laziness that is the central sentiment in this music, to the energy that flutters up with the breeze then settles into pleasant ennui. This performance was so right that it was very much like looking at this painting:
This and all Fine Arts Quartet Summer Evenings of Music concerts were and will be given in the Zelazo Center of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where the FAQ is in residence. The final concert is set for 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 30. For further details and tickets — they’re free this summer, but required, and advance reservations are advised — visit the Peck School of the Arts website.