Tom Strini
Fine Arts Quartet

Summer Evenings 3

UWM's string quartet offers Chopin concerto reduced, here-and-gone Stravinsky, sublime Ravel.

By - Jun 23rd, 2013 11:34 pm

Pianist Xiayin Wang. Photo courtesy of the artist’s website.

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.

Next came “Double Canon in Memoriam Raoul Dufy,” the oddest bit of Stravinskiana I’ve encountered. This 1959 exercise in 12-tone technique sounds like an exercise in 12-tone technique: row, canon, inversion, canon, done. Eighty seconds. The fellows played it all deadpan and came up smiling at the end. I wonder if Stravinsky dashed it off on the back of an envelope, just to show that he could do that Schoenberg thing.

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:


Henri Edmond Cross (French, 1856–1910) Landscape (Garden at St. Tropez), ca. 1900 Oil on canvas 10 x 25 in. (25.34 x 63.5 cm) Purchase, Marjorie Tiefenthaler Bequest and partial gift of Louise Uihlein Snell Fund of the Milwaukee Foundation M1996.29 Photo by Larry Sanders.

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.

Categories: Classical, Music

0 thoughts on “Fine Arts Quartet: Summer Evenings 3”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am not familiar with the Chopin and besides thinking that Ms. Wang was too energetic in the first movement, I didn’t know what was wrong. Thanks for illuminating it.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us