Review by Judith Caldwell
Quartet Atlantik is so named because violinist Akemi Mercer, and her husband Dirk Niewoehner, viola, live and work in Germany while her sister Rachel Mercer, cello, and Rachel’s partner Yehonatan Berick live & work in Canada. Rehearsal times are tough to arrange.
Last evening’s concert, the third in the 5 @ the First series, opened with a special guest, Caitlin Muller, playing Felix Mendelssohn’s Prelude Op.104 No2 in B flat minor for piano.
- This was a dark, brooding piece which was short, intense and complicated – and well played. Ms Muller will play it for part of her Performance Exam next week – we wish her good luck .
Quartet Atlantik then took the stage for String Quartet Op 55 no 2 in F minor. During the introduction Yehonatan told us it was nicknamed ‘The Razor’ because Haydn went to borrow a razor from his neighbour who loaned it to him in return for a string quartet. Haydn wrote about 90 string quartets and this is one of the later ones where he had managed to shuck off many of the rigid musical ‘rules’ of the time. The opening is a stately promenade led by the viola and it moves between F minor and F major in a wonderfully harmonious way; the allegro is brisk, cheerful and playful; the Menuetto is a game of musical ‘chase’ between the instruments and is outwardly simply and inwardly brilliantly complex; and the final Presto is familiar, lively and fun. Altogether a gorgeous piece expertly played.
Then we enjoyed/endured music of avant-garde experimental composer John Zorn. Rachel likened this particular piece, Cat o’ nine tails, to switching channels on the TV with the remote – a barely recognized bit of Bugs Bunny followed by scratchy static leading into a sensuous tango and percussive syncopation, then an amusing bit of ‘Tea for Two’ and finally a Sibelius-like ending. This was very different music in a fractured style and some in the audience loved it and some hated it, but no one left because of it. The way this music was introduced made it approachable, we could laugh at it and we could appreciate it. That says a lot about the trust between this audience and these musicians.
The final piece was the last String Quartet by Antonin Dvořák, Op.105 in A flat major. It is a quartet in four movements which are subtle, complex and variable. The opening adagio ma non troppo is grand and expansive; the following molto vivace is intricate with intertwining parts from each of the strings that are harmonious and upbeat. This is followed by a Lento e molto cantabile full of flowing melodies, and song and variations which evoke tremendous pathos. The finale is a big, triumphant, expansive review of the melodies which is so joyful it is easy to see why it is so popular. The Quartet Atlantik played it flawlessly and with obvious enthusiasm. The next concert in the 5 @ the First series is on February 22nd, at 7.30pm