On April 9 four years ago, the Artemis String Quartet had its Indy debut with Ensemble Music, dazzling one and all with top-flight musicianship and ensemble work. Clearly it was time to have them return. But because of health problems, first violinist Natalia Prishepenko could not join the present tour, so that we only had second violinist Gregor Sigl, violist Friedemann Weigle and cellist Eckart Runge to open with Beethoven's String Trio No. 5 in C minor, Op. 9 No. 3 -- a rather sparse string genre in the repertoire (compare the more popular piano trio -- piano, violin and cello). Chilean pianist Jacques Ammon then joined the threesome for the two remaining offerings: In L'Istesso Tempo (1998) by Georgian (Europe) composer Gaya Kancelli (b. 1935) and the lengthy Brahms Piano Quartet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 26.
Beethoven wrote only five string trios early in his career, but that is more than by any other composer I can find. So that makes the C Minor the last one, and -- perhaps not too surprisingly -- the most advanced. It even contains some Schubertian premonitions. Our Artemis threesome glided through its four movements with ease and mastery, with Sigl and Runge especially in tonal sync.
Kancelli describes his In L'Istesso Tempo in the program booklet in grossly nihilistic terms: e.g. "our planet is being torn apart by bloodshed and antagonism." He speaks of his music as being "more sad than happy." Worse than that, the four movement work is downright depressing, depressingly slow, one note following another interminably. The despair communicated itself mostly, and surprisingly, in a major tonality, but that didn't elevate the mood one whit. The only aspect of beauty was conveyed by the players, the cellist and pianist especially, but all four immersing their talent into this despondency prevented me from wanting to crawl into a hole and pulling it in after me.
Brahms is always good, but he can get carried away, and nowhere more than in the second of his three piano quartets. I clocked the four movements at 53 minutes. There is not enough good material to sustain interest that long in each movement but for the Scherzo, movement 3. Through the lyric outer sections bookending the stormy "trio," the latter is great Brahms. Once again our players more than did this long work justice, with the string players mostly matching their vibratos and Ammon providing well executed finger work throughout. In summary, this program was mostly about the performances -- as opposed to the repertoire choices. May 2; Indiana History Center
Guest pianist Dejan Lazić reconstructed the Brahms Violin Concerto as a piano concerto and played it for a large Friday ISO audience.
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