La Scena Musicale

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The Borrmeo Quartet performs in Vancouver

Although the Bartók String Quartets are securely placed in the standard chamber repertoire, complete performances are something special. In a poignant homage to the Vancouver Recital Society's now defunct Chamber Music Festival, the Boston-based Borromeo Quartet played on July 20, in circumstances as untypical as the project.

The venue was a large home on the edge of Vancouver's sprawling northeast suburbs. Most of the audience traveled an hour from the downtown core, listening to a pre-concert lecture aboard a motor coach. This almost rural setting and the perfect summer day held all hundred participants in a shared intimacy.

The music was impressive. The Quartet played in Tokyo last month and plans to record the works in the near future. First violinist Nicholas Kitchen followed the full score on a laptop but the rest of the ensemble opted for traditional parts. The Borromeo Quartet produced a suave, blended sound, which made the First Quartet sound all the more Romantic. By the time Bartók found his idiom, the players had adjusted to accommodate the raw energy and rhythmic drive of the composer.

Hearing all six quartets in six hours was demanding; such intense music packs an emotional wallop. The integral approach made Bartók's ideas and connections all the more powerful. The charm of the setting played its part as well. In the ‘night music’ movements of unsentimental evocations of nature sounds, it seemed like the Fraser Valley birds and bugs were counting bars and entering on cue.

David Gordon Duke
Vancouver, BC

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