Camerata San Antonio’s core string quartet: Matthew Zerweck and Anastasia Parker (violins), Emily Freudigman (viola) and Ken Freudigman (cello), in the University of the Incarnate Word concert hall on Feb. 18.
February 21, 2018
Would someone please round up the
members of Camerata San Antonio,
lock them up in a room, and not let
them out until they’ve recorded the
whole damn cycle of Beethoven’s 16
The notion first occurred to me in
March of last year, when the foursome
delivered a stunning account of the
“Great Fugue" in its original context as
the final movement of the Quartet in
B-flat, Op. 130. Then the first of the
three “Rasumovsky” Quartets (Op. 59,
No. 1, in F) closed Camerata’s Feb. 18
concert at the University of the
Incarnate Word, and the impression
was confirmed. Feral and untethered,
but also warm and sweet, and always
in motion, this was among the most
performances in my experience,
whether live or in recordings.
The players once again were Matthew
Zerweck and Anastasia Parker (violins),
Emily Freudigman (viola) and Ken Freudigman (cello).
Fully considered details of phrasing, articulation and dynamics brought out the essential weirdness at the core of the opening allegro. There was a feeling of menace in the allegretto’s rat-a-tat figures, and some of the sudden fortissimos exploded like hand grenades. The troupe found the ideal tempo for the hymn-like adagio – slow enough to allow scope for deep feeling, but fast enough to hold the long arc aloft – and imbued the movement with a sense of dance. Apart from a few slightly unkempt moments in the allegretto (not really a fault), the performance evinced taut ensemble and creamy balances.
The opening work, Haydn’s Quartet in G, Op. 76, No. 1, occupied the same high plane – vigorous and impetuous in the quick movements, flexible and tender in the adagio.
The Haydn and Beethoven quartets, composed in 1796 and 1808 respectively, still sound fresh and contemporary, and they were especially so in these performances. Philip Glass’s String Quartet No. 3 “Mishima” holds up less well.
The piece originated as the music for six scenes in Paul Schrader’s 1985 film based on the life of the great (if slightly daft) Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima. Schrader’s choice of Glass to score the film made thematic (and box-office) sense: The composer’s “minimalist” style, largely based on ostinato figures, conveyed something of the stuck-in-the-past obsessiveness of the subject. (“Ostinato” is Italian for “obstinate.”) But Glass’s approach to minimalism is also limited in its expressive range and tends toward an almost static placidity. The performance was strong, on the whole – a little murky in the first two movements – but the music was less than compelling.