Review: Cuarteto Casals

The Cuarteto Casals

Ensemble Music Series

Indiana History Center, Oct. 26

The Barcelona based Cuarteto Casals - or the Casals Quartet - did nothing

to bring a Spanish idiom to its Ensemble Music season opener on Wednesday. That

is to say, in its scheduled program. As though to compensate for this omission,

the stringed foursome offered as an encore "The Miller's Dance" from Manuel de

Falla's well known ballet music to The

Three Cornered Hat. Reportedly a former Cuarteto Casals player made the

string quartet adaptation from full orchestra some time ago while the group was

waiting in detention at their arrival in Great Britain in getting a passport dilemma resolved.

What the players did have scheduled, however, was a quick

survey of three centuries of quartet music: from Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805),

through Franz Schubert (1797-1828) to Dimitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) - though

not in that order. Boccherini's String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 32 No. 5, came

first. Written in 1780, this was almost the "infant" period of this genre, its

mature version having been essentially "invented" by Haydn with his Op. 33 set-of-six a

year after this one.

So we heard an ingratiating mixture of rococo and

galant styles fused into an agreeable four movements, with a most unusual

fourth-movement first-violin solo cadenza, played by Vera Martínéz with

expressive gusto. In fact, she played all the group's offerings throughout with

special gusto; more on that later.

Next came the Shostakovich Quartet

No. 9 in E-flat,

Op. 117 (1964). (This instead of No. 8, seemingly the one quartet out

of his 15 invariably chosen in quartet concerts.) No. 9 is, however, quintessential

Shostakovich, with its biting sarcasm filled with the composer's signature

"galloping" rhythms, all of which appear to have come from the Finale of

Rossini's William Tell Overture. Cast

in five connected movements, it is certainly as program worthy as No. 8.

Schubert also wrote 15 quartets, but the first 11 are

youthful, immature works. No. 12 is the masterful Quartetsatz in one movement, from 1821. In 1824, with four years left

to live, Schubert wrote and completed the first two of his final three quartet

masterpieces: the second one the all-too-familiar "Death and the Maiden"

Quartet (No. 14) - and this one, the Quartet No. 13 in A Minor, D. 804 ("Rosemunde"),

which we haven't heard in Indy for a while. Its second-movement theme is derived from

the composer's Rosemunde Incidental

Music. The four movements progress from sad and yearning to happy and yearning.

Though the Casals group (named after the great 20th-century

Spanish cellist Pablo Casals) played their program with zip, panache and good

musicality throughout, first-violinist Martínéz tended to dominate the

ensemble, all but covering her violin partner, Cibrá Sierra Vásquez, who is

subbing in this tour for their regular second violinist Abel Tomás. Violist

Jonathan Brown and cellist Arnau Tomás provided the most pleasing tones and

best mutual balance of the four. Regardless of who held the principal line, Martinéz'

instrument actually sounded richer and louder than those of her partners.

Perhaps she would do well as a violin-concerto soloist with a symphony.


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