THUNDER BAY, ON ----- February 15, 2010 --- What a great Family Day Weekend, at least if you like concerts. Counting the Masterworks Concert by the TBSO the weekend rang loud with the sounds of the Pembina Trails Voices at St. Paul’s United Church, Thunder Bay, on Friday night, and then the last concert of the season of the Consortium Aurora Borealis with the spotlessly clean playing of the Penderecki String Quartet. Shown to the left is the Consortium’s music director Elizabeth Ganiatsos with the members of the quartet, Christine Vlajk viola, Jacob Braun cello, Jeremy Bell and Jerzy Kaplanek violins.
A concert of string quartets at this level presents some serious music by master composers. A composer would often put more effort into composing a quartet than they would a symphony. Beginning with the Haydn String Quartet in D major Opus 76, No. 5 Haydn was at the height of his composing prowess when he wrote this music. In competition most quartets win and lose on how well they play the classical quartets by Hayden and Mozart. Compared to later composers, Haydn lived a content life, and the slow movement of this concerto is sublime in every sense of the word. A great deal of technical prowess needed to play later quartets, yet many performing string quartets have trouble with a slow movement like the one in this quartet by Haydn. The Penderecki quartet played flawlessly and the audience (the best of the season) sat on the edge of their seat listening to every note.
Towards the end of his life, a person asked Herr Beethoven what his most favoured composition was. Without hesitation he mentioned the Cavatina from the string quartet in B flat major Op 130. Apart from the musical giant of J.S. Bach only Beethoven might have the audacity to write music to speak to the depth of the human soul. In this slow movement of this quartet Beethoven conjures up a musical prayer of atonement for all the pain and misery of the world. It is a stunning testament to the power of music and the skill of the Pendereckis.
The well known quartet by Maurice Ravel finished the program. It provides some relief from the drama and seriousness of the Beethoven and was performed after the intermission. A shorter work it sort of transitions the romantic and impressionistic style of French chamber music. Again I was impressed with their playing.
This could easily have been the chamber music concert of the year in Thunder Bay. A record crowd showed up at the church, and the concert got off to a late start because people were still entering the church. This is encouraging on a night when many people are at home watching the Olympics or attending other concerts in town. Next year the Consortium season will open September 25th with a return engagement of harpsichord virtuoso Eric Lussier.
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews.com