29 April 2012

The Parker Quartet

I've been following the Parker Quartet for a few years now, but I had never seen them live until last night's performance at the Kalliroscope Gallery. They were magnificent: four extraordinarily well-matched musicians bursting with dynamic energy and exhibiting a precise control over emotions that threatened to brim beyond containment. 

This was evident in the rich Mozart String Quartet No. 23 in F Major, K. 590 (which I was not familiar with) and in the radiant romanticism of one of my favorite pieces, Schumann's A Major String Quartet (Op. 41, No. 3)--but it was especially so in the Janáček String Quartet No. 2, the so-called "Intimate Letters" quartet, which is an almost exhausting progression of achingly lovely passages and phrases mixed with violent agitation. It is a piece that benefits from multiple listens, so it left my daughter a little perplexed (in our chat after the concert, she repeatedly referred to the quartet as "the angry one"), but for me, hearing the familiar music in the vividness of a live setting for the first time, wrapped in an envelope of intensity created by musicians who were almost literally within arms' reach, was the highlight of the evening.  

To give you a taste of the Parker Quartet, here is a video of them playing the first movement of another one of my favorite pieces of chamber music: the Brahms' String Quartet No. 2 in A minor (Op. 51, No. 2).

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