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The American String Quartet is celebrating its 30th anniversary season. For many years, the group has been a resident ensemble at the Aspen Music Festival and the Manhattan School of Music. This superb foursome is quite simply one of the world's finest string quartets. Next to the chiseled perfection of the Emerson Quartet (whose recent Beethoven-Schubert program was a high point of the South Florida music season) it would be difficult to find a more polished, musically sophisticated group than the American foursome. Their performance of the String Quartet in C minor Op 51 No 1 by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) probed the depths of the music's romantic passions. (Ever the perfectionist, Brahms discarded several string quartets and thoroughly revised the C minor Quartet before allowing it to be published in 1873.) The spiraling intensity and momentum of the first movement Allegro was inexorable. The rich string tone and enveloping beauty of utterance in the Romanze: Poco Adagio were overwhelming. Such beautiful phrasing and deeply probing musicality would be hard to equal! The long breathed elasticity of musical line in the Allegretto molto moderato e comodo seemed to make time stop -- all achieved with simple economy of musical means. Winograd's soaring violin and strong leadership whirled through the tempest-tossed drama of the concluding Allegro with searing power. The quartet's beautifully balanced ensemble playing was the sine qua non of chamber music performance!

The bright, up-close acoustical perspective of the Miniaci Center greatly aided the intimacy of the chamber music experience. This was particularly true in the opening String Quartet in D Op 71 No 2 by the father of the string quartet Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). The quartet's crisp articulation of the opening Adagio: Allegro set the pace for a brilliantly virtuosic performance. The players brought just the right amount of hesitation cum drama to the pauses in the introduction. The Adagio benefited from wonderfully pure string articulation and a sense of Classical line. The American foursome captured the whimsical humor of the Menuet: Allegro/Trio. The Finale: Allegretto was an insouciant confection -- played with vigor and bravado. A great performance of a Haydn masterpiece!

The American String Quartet has that rare ability to make every score sound new and freshly minted. Captured in an intimate acoustical environment, the group's collaboration with Alexander Fiterstein (in the Mozart Clarinet Quintet) produced music making that approached sublimity!

Copyright © 12 February 2005 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA





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