MUSIC REVIEW : Fine Arts Quartet at Mt. St. Mary’s

Chamber music this season promises to be both plentiful and intriguing. Friday evening, the Fine Arts Quartet opened the Da Camera Society’s Doheny Soirees, on the downtown campus of Mount St. Mary’s College.

This is the second generation Fine Arts Quartet. Though relatively young as a group, violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, violist Jerry Horner and cellist Wolfgang Laufer lack little in ensemble integrity, playing with uniform articulation and phrasing in even the most passionate passages.

And there was an emphasis on passion--a compelling, unexaggerated, often seemingly impetuous involvement in the music--throughout the program. The ensemble tore through Debussy’s familiar Quartet with uncommonly forceful but entirely appropriate elan, banishing any hint of fuzzy Impressionistic stereotypes.

Mendelssohn’s chamber music is being reconsidered, and the Fine Arts’ account of his Quartet in D, Opus 44, No. 1, suggested that it can be made to sound unexpectedly important, as well as predictably ingratiating. The outer movements benefited from a vigorous attack, supported by round, focused tone, while the Andante developed in somber strength.


Occasionally, at exigent moments, there was a momentary loss of control, as in the development in the opening movement of Haydn’s “Lark” Quartet, Opus 64, No. 5, which began the program. But the Fine Arts’ combination of direct emotional connections and seemingly spontaneous--yet unanimous--interpretive inspirations make it a convincing Haydn proponent, if one not overly concerned with period niceties.

It was Haydn that the Fine Arts turned to in encore, acknowledging the justly enthusiastic reception with the finale from the “Bird” Quartet, Opus 33, No. 3.