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Your monthly critical round-up of performances, recordings and publications


Andrei Ionita: a highly promising debut PAGE 86
Fresh, spontaneous Haydn from the Jubilee QuartetPAGE 89
Wilhelmina Smithplays Salonen’s solo cello works PAGE 91

New York

Musical alchemy from Anne-Sophie Mutter, Daniel Müller-Schott and Lambert Orkis


WEILL RECITAL HALL, CARNEGIE HALL 4 MARCH 2019 It is a pleasure to hear a quartet that both takes music seriously and also enjoys it - as was the case with the Heimat Quartet, which made its Carnegie Hall debut this month. Founded in 2014 in Boston, the Heimat performed Mozart’s String Quartet in G major K287 with a warm sound and much joy. Unfortunately, intonation was frequently a distraction. Cellist Brendon Phelps stood out in the Andante cantabile, playing with a rich but clear sound and beautiful shaping and leading.

The world premiere of Anthony Vine’s Wave Roomfollowed, and the quartet did an admirable job, presenting it with sincerity and gravitas, representing well the work’s intention (as noted in the programme): ‘The music attempts to engage a reflexive mode of listening, wherein one takes notice of their own perceptual faculties, and begins to perceive themselves listening.’ Although it was not exactly enjoyable, the work was an interesting and provocative part of the programme.

Dvorak’s infrequently heard A flat major Quartet op.105 closed the programme with a beautiful introduction by cellist and violist. As the movement developed, first violinist Patrick Shaughnessy experienced intonation issues, but created soaring melodies and long lines above inner-voice unrest. The Molto vivace was extremely well executed. Although the final movement was a bit dense, the quartet brought the concert to a close with a vivacious ending.



KAUFMANN CONCERT HALL, 92Y 9 MARCH 2019 My best concert advice is never to pass up an opportunity to hear the Brentano Quartet. The New York premiere of Martin Bresnick’s String Quartet no.4 ‘The Planet on the Table’ (2018) opened the evening, providing a ‘musical meditation on [a Wallace Stevens poem], on the transformational value of art, on the power of the creative act’, according to first violinist Mark Steinberg.

The Brentano Quartet has the ability to captivate the ear, and the intensity and total commitment with which the players approached this work was no exception. Cellist Nina Lee played tremendously in the second movement - her ponticello was ethereal and her soaring melodic lines were haunting, mournful, and achingly lovely. The players created an atmosphere of stillness and expectation in the third movement, and painted a sound picture of hope in the fourth. The final movement developed material from the first in new ways and the quartet managed a light-hearted sensibility that was neither trite nor blase. Radio host Fred Child gave a powerful reading of selections of Stevens’s poetry after the quartet performance.

Beethoven’s incomparable String Quartet in A minor op.132 followed, with projections of Stevens’s poetry in the background. The timing of the projections was impeccable: thoughtful, provocative and utterly beautiful, although at times I found it distracted from the experience of the music. Steinberg’s playing was both precise and also understated, his power coming not from the richness of his sound or the intensity of his dynamics, but from the intensity and intentionality of each note. The second movement had a lovely lilt, with spacious phrases and a gentleness that was strangely water-like (‘flowing always the same / though never the same way twice’ projected from the Stevens). The slow movement was breathtaking and perfectly proportioned: ‘exquisite’ fails to do justice. The quartet ended with balance, intelligence of phrasing, and a rich depth of beauty that comes from only the greatest of artists.



CARNEGIE HALL 12 MARCH 2019 It’s unusual for an audience to cheer a world premiere, but luxury casting for Sebastian Currier’s Ghost Trio- Anne-Sophie Mutter joined by cellist Daniel Muller-Schott and pianist Lambert Orkis - produced an audience reaction fervent enough for an encore: the sixth, pizzicato-happy ‘Syncopated’ movement. Currier’s ingenious conceit uses shards of piano trios from the past - Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn - which appear and disappear in puffs of microtonal smoke.

Two Mozart sonatas - in E minor K304 and B flat major K454 - showed Mutter and Orkis at their most attentive and synchronised. In the earlier one, Mutter began with no vibrato, before subsequent phrases blossomed like tropical plants. Poulenc’s 1942-43 Sonata, which closed the evening, boasted a sparkling surface, but with a forlorn undertow of struggle.

Aside from the premiere, Debussy’s Sonata was the apex, with Mutter adopting a velvety sensuousness, completely removed from her crisp display in Mozart. As a friend in San Francisco wrote, after seeing the same programme (minus the Currier premiere), ‘Tone, tone, tone’, and never was her 1710 Stradivari put to more seductive use. Among many virtues was her chameleonic ability to change her sound - and her approach - for disparate works.

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About The Strad

We conclude our investigation of Stradivari’s moulds and examine some radical teaching methods. Vadim Gluzman, Philip Dukes and Matthew Barley are interviewed and there’s our annual Accessories supplement, featuring carbon fibre bows, wolf eliminators, mutes and lots more.