Marian U. Civic Theatre
Two string quartets made up the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis's Laureate chamber series opener. Consisting of one IVCI laureate, Ida Kavafian (1982 silver medalist) and her husband, violist Steven Tenenbom - along with IVCI jury president Jaime Laredo and his wife, celebrated cellist Sharon Robinson - plus the acclaimed Miami String Quartet, the program displayed various combinations of the eight players. First we had Handel's Passacaglia for Violin and Cello in an arrangement by post-Romantic composer Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935), a somewhat ungainly blending of Baroque and Romantic elements. Laredo and Robinson gave it a masterly reading, however. Continuing the marital coupling, we next heard Mozart's Duo in B-flat for Violin and Viola, K. 424. A beautifully crafted work, Kavafian delivered a bit more pizzaz than her husband. Then it was the Miami Quartet's turn - playing the String Quartet No. 1, Op. 20 of Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983). Another well crafted Modern work, the Miami group played it like they owned it: precise, fiery, contemplative, nimble and employing all the bowing devices modernism calls for in a masterly manner. Clearly it was now time for us to hear all eight players together in the most obvious choice: Mendelssohn's Octet for Strings in E-flat, Op. 20 - the greatest instrumental masterpiece from any 16-year old I know of. No, not even Mozart had written anything of this ambition and level of maturity by that age. After beginning with some raggedness, our octet of players coalesced in the hauntingly beautiful slow movement, the fleeting Scherzo and the perpetual-motion Finale, with Laredo impressively carrying the burden at the end.