May 4, 2010

Virtuosity and vivacity: a night at Mandel Hall with the Belcea Quartet

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The Belcea Quartet’s show last Friday at Mandel Hall brought together young and old to admire and experience the quartet’s classical music. Belcea Quartet is on a worldwide tour, with diverse locations including Louisiana, Brussels, and London. Their great energy and chemistry was evident as early as the first note and brought together this dynamic group of four from around the world.

The group started out strong, putting to rest right from the beginning any notion that classical music is boring. All the musicians displayed considerable liveliness and passion. Each member in the quartet took charge of the music in turn, without any one sound dominating. Their balanced, four-voice texture was impressive—the first violin did not take charge above all, but instead shared the role with the other instruments in different parts of the pieces.

The music chosen for this performance created a program full of energy and variety. The first piece by Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat major, was played with a kind of back and forth figure, and went from lively to chaotic. All the movements worked with this same idea, and the musicians incorporated it into their physical presence on the stage, making a lovely piece of music enjoyable to watch as well as hear. Each member was taken over by the music, moving freely with their bowing and showing the deep emotions of the piece in the way they played.

The second piece by Szymanowski, String Quartet No. 2, was somewhat eerie sounding and a little dark, but it still maintained a playful nature. Changing with each movement, the piece kept a rushed and unsettling feeling before finally arriving at a calm ending. The last piece by Bartók, String Quartet No.1, brought the different instruments all together and had the quartet follow each other in a canon-like fashion. The cello took charge with a sort of solo—something very different from the other pieces. The long bows moving in sync with one another were beautiful to watch and equally beautiful to listen to.

While the performance was not long—about an hour and a half—it felt complete and whole. The audience was engaged throughout the whole concert, captivated by the emotion and passion filling each musician. The music felt not only elegant and joyous, but personal as well. The audience members could not keep their eyes off the quartet, as they were amusing and impressive not only in their playing, but in their relationships on stage with both their instruments and each other. At the concert’s end, the quartet received long applause and a well-deserved standing ovation. The musicians seemed to have communicated their energy so effectively with their performance that their audience left Mandel Hall lively and refreshed.