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The American String Quartet is a superb ensemble. Their performance was the very essence of great Brahms -- richly reverberant string playing with that wonderful dark toned undercurrent. They combine the precision and musicality of the Julliard Quartet with the mellow sound of the Guarneri Quartet. (They are the resident quartet at the Aspen Festival and the Manhattan School of Music.) Their collaboration with Bronfman was magnificent. What vitality and glowing ardor they brought to Brahms's opening Allegro non troppo! The entire performance glowed with romantic warmth. As an encore they joined Bronfman in a lilting, virtuosic performance of the Scherzo from the Piano Quintet (1940) by Shostakovich -- a total delight.

The American String Quartet. Photo: Stu Levy
The American String Quartet. Photo: Stu Levy

The American foursome (Peter Winograd and Laurie Carney, violins; Daniel Avshalomov, viola; and Margo Tatgenhorst Drakos, cello) are all consummate musicians. Together they form one of the world's great quartets! Their playing has the glowing warmth and absolute precision of fine crystal. The String Quartet No 3 in F Major, Op 73 (1946) by Dimitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) begins with a lively Russian folk theme -- at once charming and sarcastic. The bright-toned urgency of Winograd and Carney's violinistic bravura made the Allegretto a joyous celebration of great musicianship. Avshalomov's deeply resonant viola commanded center stage in the agitated Moderato con moto. The relentless energy and fury of the Allegro non troppo recalled the Scherzo of Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony. The quartet's dynamic performance was exhilarating! Shostakovich's slow movements always represent the composer at his most eloquent and deeply personal. The Adagio of this quartet is typically soulful, emotionally wrenching music. The rapt, deeply focused intensity of the quartet's performance was mesmerizing. The concluding Moderato was played with effortless brio -- the soft, questioning ending seeming to fade into another world. A great performance!

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Copyright © 20 December 2003 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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