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In his superb commentary the evening's host University of Miami music Professor Frank Cooper pointed out that the year 1809 was the worst of times for Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). The composer had to take refuge from Napoleon's bombardment of Vienna and try to preserve his fragile hearing. Yet in one of music history's most unlikely occurrences, Beethoven created three of his sunniest works in that terrible year -- the Emperor Concerto, the Les Adieux Sonata, and the String Quartet in E flat Op 74 (The Harp). That quartet is one of Beethoven's most delightful scores. The four Berlin players gave this music a sonorous, intense but somewhat uneven performance. The plucking of strings in the first movement (which resulted in the score's nickname) was tellingly projected. The Presto marking of the Scherzo was accomplished with style and vigor. The players brought character and charm to the concluding theme and variations. Yet the two violins were not always precise. Occasionally the violinists' playing turned harsh. Yet the broad outlines of Beethoven's music were well served.

The intimate atmosphere of the Omni Colonnade ballroom brought the audience into the world of the music salon -- a connection to the composers' world. In this glowing ambience, the idiomatic playing of the Berlin quartet was a real treat. A wonderful preview of the coming Mainly Mozart Festival!

Copyright © 7 February 2004 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA





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