Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 31
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
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Princeton Summer Concerts Closes Season with Refreshing Performance by Leipzig String Quartet

Nancy Plum

Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts closed is 2010 season last Tuesday night with a return to the classics — the well-established Leipzig String Quartet delved into the monumental chamber music composers Haydn, Webern and Beethoven. Certainly more traditional than the Ahn Trio which opened the Chamber Concerts series earlier this summer, the four members of the Leipzig Quartet (violinists Stefan Arzberger and Tilman Buning, violist Ivo Bauer and cellist Matthias Moosdorf) proved that the classics really never go out of style.

The Quartet’s choice of repertoire for last Tuesday night’s performance in Richardson Auditorium was naturally heavy on the German and Austrian repertoire, opening with the always-refreshing Franz Josef Haydn. Haydn’s String Quartet in B flat Major, nicknamed the “Sunrise” Quartet, did connote the early morning in its viola and cello drone under first violinist Mr. Arzberger’s well-contained and mellow sound. The sun rose rather quickly in the first movement “Allegro,” as the two violinists played precisely together through clean ornaments and dramatic subito fortes, and cellist Mr. Moosdorf easily moved through the registers of his instrument. The Quartet found great variety in the Viennese-like music, executing well-tapered endings and keeping the dynamics well under control. The Quartet found an especially unified sound in the second movement “Adagio,” demonstrating the ensemble’s strength in playing pianissimo in a movement in which one could hear a pin drop in the audience.

The four players of the Quartet sounded as one instrument in the hymn-like second movement, and Mr. Arzberger proved to be an effective leader as Mr. Moosdorf provided a solid underpinning under duet passages from the violins and viola. The players were particularly adept in the closing movement in which thematic material moved effortlessly among the ensemble.

The Leipzig Quartet moved ahead more than a century with its choice of Anton Webern’s 1905 String Quartet, a one-movement work showing the composer’s late Romantic influences. Seemingly built around a three-note motive, Webern’s piece had none of the harshness of the composer’s later atonal and the Quartet easily found the passion and tension of the music. Playing at an almost imperceptible dynamic at times, the musicians arrived at major cadences together. This String Quartet was more melodic than one might have expected from Webern, and the players brought out the melodies and internal harmonies well.

The Quartet had its hands full with the Beethoven “Harp” Quartet which closed the program. The chipper opening “Allegro” contained duets of pizzicato creating the harp effects, and the players showed a good feel for the Viennese cadences. Mr. Bauer demonstrated a rich viola sound, and throughout the piece, the Quartet continued its command over pianissimo playing.

The melodies of the second movement “Adagio” were seamlessly executed, with a clean duet between the viola and cello. Following a fiery “Presto” the members of the Quartet, all playing close to the fingerboard, closed the work in a well-unified and typically Beethoven “Alla Breve.”

Princeton University Summer Concerts presented a varied series of programs this summer, ranging from a piano trio to a guitar quartet and two string quartets. Area audiences have become accustomed to these musically refreshing ways to cool off in July, and throughout this past season, the Summer Concerts organizers continued to demonstrate good choices in high quality chamber music.

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