The music from four composers that framed the program for the Borromeo String Quartet’s performance in the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Recital Hall evoked an equal number of emotional responses.
Bach: Disappointment verging on rage. With such an extensive repertoire, why rework a one-voice conception (four Selections from The Well-Tempered Clavier) into four? Although the string quartet is one of the most homogeneous ensembles known to Western music, Bach’s incredible feeling for long line and forward-thinking counterpoint was lost in the shuffle: too many bows spoiled this broth.
Mendelssohn: Invigoration. Ah youth! The 18-year-old’s confidence, inventiveness and sense of balance was aptly demonstrated in this reading, serving also to highlight the skill sets of the performers. Nicholas Kitchen’s wonderfully sweet upper register was a constant pleasure; when it was his turn to lead, violinist Kristopher Tong admirably took stage with surety and flare; sitting in for regular violist, Mai Motobuchi (sidelined with an injury) , Dov Scheindlin’s enticingly dark lower register and innate ability to blend with his colleagues as required made his contributions as welcome as spring rain; deftly providing the foundation and delivering delectable pizzicati, cellist Yeesun Kim was a model anchor as the movements either flew by or thoughtfully made their way to the double bar. One small quibble was in the opening Allegro vivace where the dotted rhythm of the theme frequently had more weight than its intended target.
Currier: Happiness-and-joy. “Velocities” was a sizzling 21st century catch-me-if-you-can celebration of life that had enough energy emanating from the players to light up Broadway for a week. The Rite of Spring punctuation effects were razor sharp, due in part to the infectious foot percussion from Scheindlin and Tong before Kim readily shut things down with a “snap to it” ending. The ensuing “Dreaming” stood in marvellously stark contrast, causing the Freudians in the hall to speculate as to just what wish was being fulfilled. The overarching feeling was that of four equals engaging in a collective, far-reaching search—with a touch of Copland’s Appalachian Spring peeking through the clouds—finally settling for a pleasant awakening, unsure of just exactly would be remembered in the light of day.
Schumann: Contentment. The quartet admirably managed to distill the disparate movements into a cohesive whole that largely understood the 30-minute metamorphosis of ideas, rhythms and textures where—so unlike the opening Bach—the performers artfully merged into a single, compelling voice. JWR