Ensemble Made in Canada – a superb quartet Reply

Review by Judith Caldwell
     The season’s final event in the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts was a truly lovely chamber concert, featuring an afternoon of Mozart, Mendelssohn and Schumann, played by a superb quartet called Ensemble Made in Canada (EMIC). The players – Angela Park, piano; Elissa Lee, violin; Sharon Wei, viola and Rachel Mercer, cello – have played together for over ten years and bring a wealth of experience and a shared love of chamber music. They are each superb musicians who have taught master classes and lectured at Universities in both Canada and the United States.

Quartet members Mercer; Wei; Park & Lee

Quartet members Mercer; Wei; Park & Lee


The program began with Mozart’s Duo for Violin and Viola in G, K.423 which was only attributed to Mozart after his death. Michael Haydn had been commissioned to write a set of six Duos for the tyrannical Archbishop Colloredo, but he fell ill, thus Mozart helped him out with the last two. Because of the mutual antipathy between himself and Mozart, they did not tell the Archbishop, and Haydn only ‘fessed up after Mozart’s death. In this work, the viola is unusually treated as an equal partner with the violin. This reflects Mozart’s respect for the instrument, which he played himself in a quartet. The melody line moves from one instrument to the other, and they mesh and move apart and dance around each other seamlessly. The excellent acoustics made this glorious piece sound much fuller, and more intimate, than often happens.
Then it was on to Mendelssohn and his Piano Quartet #3 in b, a little thing that was tossed off before he turned 16! It has been said of Mendelssohn that he began as a genius and ended as a talent, and this Piano Quartet is certainly not the work of an immature musician. It is full of youthful energy, but it also presents a large, lush and satisfying sound, with more than enough glorious music to keep the audience spellbound. The scherzo has been called a ‘quicksilver tour de force’ and the finale in 4/4 time is simply brilliant. It was flawlessly played by EMIC who clearly enjoyed it as much as the audience.
After intermission came Schumann’s Piano Quartet in Eb. The quartet began solemnly with a set of chords which then became more upbeat, and wistfully hopeful, only to subside back to darker cello themes echoed by the violin and viola. Lines from the opening were featured in the following scherzo, in a more cheerful form. And then in the andante cantabile, there was a magnificent cello part that was plaintive and yearning. The finale was full of vitality and energy, ending with a wonderfully satisfying flourish. This was a work from Schumann’s ‘golden period’ and is less reflective of his troubled mind than some of his later works.
This wonderful concert was performed in a hall with amazing acoustics. Program notes by Waterloo’s chamber music aficionado, Jan Narveson, added to the enjoyment. Check the HCA website for their 2016/2017 concert line-up.

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