Music Reviews : Colorado Quartet at Bing Theater

The concert presented on Wednesday by the Colorado Quartet in the Leo S. Bing Theater offered some prodigious playing, strong interpretive ideas and quite a few loose ends.

Dynamic and rhythmic nuances are called into play as nowhere else in Mozart's quartets for the work in D, K. 499, and for most of its duration the ensemble--violinists Julie Rosenfeld and Deborah Redding, violist Francesca Martin, cellist Diane Chaplin--proved masterfully attuned to its needs.

A scrappy finale notwithstanding, the ambiguity of its moods was projected with soulful simplicity, with Martin's agile, dark-toned viola a welcome, assertive presence in a part too often treated as if it were little more than textural filler.

Beethoven's Quartet in C-sharp minor, Opus 131, which ended the program, was powerfully, cohesively set forth for better than half its considerable duration. Problems occurred with an overly precipitate Presto and, again, the group failed to close strongly. Misintonation--mainly that of the second violinist--was the principal culprit, amid what may have been a general lapse in concentration, in bringing the work to a dramatic but disheveled end.

The novelty of this evening at the County Museum of Art was the West Coast premiere of the String Quartet No. 4 ("Poems") of Karel Husa.

It is typical of the composer in its closely packed contrasts of rhythm and sonority. Nothing is developed at length. Ideas tumble over each other--some, such as the quarter-tones and unctuous slides of the third movement, proving effective; others, such as the artificial harmonics of movement two, somewhat arch.

If there is an overall shape to the work, whose subtitle is meant to evoke specified moods rather than literary texts, it eluded this listener on first encounter.

But the simple fact that Husa's quartet has rhythmic vitality and bold sonorities makes it a welcome antidote to much of the glumly underpowered new writing going on in the quartet medium.

The Colorado's performance sounded terrific.

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