In the sixth program of this year’s UC Irvine Chamber Music series, Tuesday night in the campus Fine Arts Concert Hall, the Angeles Quartet proved once again that it is an ensemble of consummate clarity, precision and control.
But clarity, precision and control are not always sufficient. Those elements made for a graceful “Horseman” Quartet. The ensemble--violinists Kathleen Lenski and Roger Wilkie, violist Brian Dembow and cellist Stephen Erdody--was balanced and the tone unforced, from the synchronized attack of Haydn’s opening chords through the energetic playfulness of the finale.
The results were somewhat less satisfactory, though, for Mendelssohn’s E-minor Quartet, Opus 44, No. 2. The group’s style fit the Scherzo, in which calm, clean control of fast-paced nuance suits the suddenly punctuated, tripping lines. But calm, clean control does not make a very passionate allegro assai appassionata, nor a very agitated presto agitato.
Not to say that the Mendelssohn did not have exciting moments. Even though the presto agitato may not have been all that presto or agitato, balance, grace, and impeccable coordination did result in a gratifying experience.
Several of the most satisfying moments came from Erdody, who seemed the most willing to make a passionate statement from amid the graceful blend, and not from the ensemble as a whole.
But all the ingredients did come together in Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A major, Opus 81, when pianist Nina Scolnik, who organizes the series, joined the quartet. Scolnik’s style is pretty, unforced, and understated, perhaps not universally adaptable, but a happy blend in this instance.
The ensemble hazarded more courageous tempos in the Dvorak than in the Mendelssohn, which meant better contrast--an exciting, energetic vivace juxtaposed against the sustained concentration of a very moving lament, the Dumka .
The shifting textures in the Quintet ensure that individuals are highlighted without requiring, as the Mendelssohn Quartet does, that they seize the limelight from the group as a whole. Accordingly, each member, in turn, treated the audience to an expressive solo in the Scherzo and busily attended to a good-natured argument in the fugal section of the finale, an energetic and amiable end to the evening.