At the Georgian Chamber Players concert a few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to speak with violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti, who had just played a knock-out performance of Tchikovsky’s Tchaikovsky Trio in A minor for Violin, Cello and Piano. She suggested that I attend the upcoming recital of the Ehnes Quartet to be held at Mercer University, where Moretti is a faculty member.
I decided to drive to Macon to see what she promised would be a stellar event. I can say that she did not mislead. James Ehnes, violin; Moretti, violin; Richard O’Neill, viola, and Robert deMaine, cello comprise the Ehnes Quartet. The long concert is part of Mercer’s Masterworks at Noon series.
The program began with Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat major (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_Quartet_No._10_(Beethoven). I have never been partial to Beethoven, but his chamber works seem to be able to highlight his skills. They are melodic and full of wonderful development. The quartet played this music brilliantly. The acoustics of Fickling Hall at the McCorkle Music Building perfectly suit a string quartet. It produces sound that is warm and integrated.
The second piece was Bartok’s String Quartet No. 4
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_Quartet_No._4_(Bart%C3%B3k). This performance was unbelievable. It is difficult music for the performers and maybe for some listeners. I am a fan of Bartok’s music and feel that he is underappreciated. He has influenced a lot of modern music, including that of many composers of movie soundtracks. There is a foreboding quality to his works, but it is not frightening or angry, as is the case of some modern music. The sounds he calls for in his music are creative and add a percussive effect, for example, having the violins plucked to the point that the string slaps against the instrument's fingerboard and the glissandi, most notably used with the cello. The members of the Quartet were totally immersed in the playing. They have a big attention- grabbing sound that engaged me throughout the piece. These talented musicians are technically wonderful, and they seem to enjoy performing with each other.
This was one of the best performances I have heard this concert season (in addition to the Tchaikovsky Trio mentioned earlier).