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Beethoven’s path to greatness with the Ehnes Quartet on the Montreal Chamber Music Competition – Seen and Heard Worldwide

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CanadaCanada Beethoven, Montreal Chamber Music Competition 2024: Ehnes Quartet (James Ehnes, Amy Schwartz Moretti [violin], Che-Yen Chen [viola], Edward Arron [cello]), Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt (viola). Bourgie Corridor, Montréal Museum of Tremendous Arts, Montreal. (LV)

Yhe Ehnes Quartet taking part in Beethoven at Bourgie Corridor © Fili 周 Gibbons/Studio Apothicaire

21.6.2024: Beethoven – String Quartets No.8 in E minor & No.9 in C main, Op.59, Nos. 2&3 ‘Razumovsky’

22.6.2024: Beethoven – String Quartet No.7 in F main, Op.59, No.1 ‘Razumovsky’; String Quintet in C main, Op.29

The final time I used to be at Denis Brott’s Montreal Chamber Music ComPetition, in 2019, violinist James Ehnes performed the whole cycle of Beethoven violin sonatas with pianist Andrew Armstrong. This yr, Ehnes returned together with his quartet in Beethoven of a unique stamp and significance. We’d hear how the expansively flowing model of his not often carried out String Quintet in C main with two violas contrasted sharply with the terse language of the six Op.18 quartets written a couple of years earlier and would discover its mature fruits 5 years later within the three Razumovskys. It was all carried out with care and a focus to the composer’s dynamics, articulation and expressive markings, as if the musicians had been looking for the feelings he was feeling behind the notes: it was like studying the rating and listening to the music come to life. I had the nice fortune to attend the concert events and several other of their rehearsals.

On the primary evening, the opening, questioning phrases of the second Razumovsky held the viewers in suspense earlier than the power surged. Ehnes sang out the lengthy traces, and his quartet’s hair-trigger timing swept the narrative away straight by means of till the beautiful voicing of the magical harmonic transformations within the coda. Ehnes and the second violinist Schwartz Moretti couldn’t be higher matched; they performed the sluggish motion below Beethoven’s hypnotic spell, ending in an extended, beautiful line of straightforward sighs. The ‘Thème Russe’ within the Allegretto was too quick to be intoxicating, however who cared when the Finale exploded on the finish so brilliantly below Ehnes’s tight but completely versatile and exhilarating management. Within the third Razumovsky, Beethoven’s lapidary affection for clear natural development underlined simply how good the Gamers had been for his or her positions. In case you performed a string instrument, simply watching the quartet’s fingerings and bowings constituted a digital grasp class, particularly within the iconic final motion which they introduced residence with velocity and, the place they might, heat.

Like Adolf Busch, Ehnes is a virtuoso dedicated to chamber music, notably the string quartet. And since lots of Beethoven’s most extremely charged, emotional outbursts within the quartets are so troublesome that solely such a virtuoso can soar above the ensemble as Beethoven imagined it, blazing from his first inspiration, the performances each nights additionally soared. Cellist Ed Arron has a big, enthusiastic sound and good nature that had him stomping his foot at occasions and including all the nice nature Beethoven additionally discovered within the instrument alongside its quiet, soulful traces and occasional wild abandon. Amy Schwartz Moretti is indivisible from the rating, whether or not within the shadows or the limelight, with a placing presence that belies her rank. In an indication of how formidable a violinist she is, her efficiency main Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto the following afternoon would showcase her coMMAnd of Baroque Affekt and gesture. The brand new violist, Che-Yen Chen, was taking part in on a brand new instrument by Samuel Zygmuntowicz which was as bold-sounding as he was, contributing wealthy colours and completely different planes of sound, generally searingly romantic, generally slashing, as within the enigmatic Andante con moto of No.3.

The Ehnes Quartet started the second evening with the primary Razumovsky which they took at lithe allegro speeds, heat and horny at occasions and spiked by fierce sforzandos. They paced the excessive dramatic factors fantastically and peaked in triumph at bar 254. The Scherzo was thrilling, exhilarating, violent at occasions, exploiting the myriad contrasts of texture and depth. The Adagio molto was deeply, personally unhappy, after which Arron’s jaunty cello theme opening the Finale embraced all humanity.

The comparatively obscure String Quintet Op.29 which ended the night is considered one of Beethoven’s most engaging works, and it exhibits his coMMAnd of Mozart’s Olympian model and Haydn’s joyful spirit. The Ehnes Quartet, joined by violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, laid out the long-lined first motion as if C main may final ceaselessly, and Ehnes led the second motion’s outpouring of music with disarming simplicity. After Arron’s miraculous rising from the ensemble on the finish of the Trio got here the fantastic absurdities of an insanely quick Finale, which accelerated much more as they drove collectively by means of the fugue after the double bar. They had been quick and kittenish within the final of the dance interludes earlier than slipping by means of considered one of Beethoven’s most magical hesitations and ending in an electrical rain of Sixteenth-notes.

After Montreal, the quartet moved on to Macon, Georgia, to file the identical works for his or her Beethoven cycle on Onyx. The primary installment since 2021 and the primary with their new violist, might be launched in 2025.They may deal with the ultimate installment of their cycle, the six quartets of Op.18, in two years.

The night concert events had been preceded by free noon-hour concert events by winners of the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Financial institution ComPetitors. The prizes are the utilization for 3 years of Strads and different fantastic devices which allow desires – and careers – to occur. The music included transcendent Leclair, unleashed Xenakis, actions from a Mozart divertimento that had me wanting extra, simply the correct amount of pleasantly inconsequential Berio, Jessie Montgomery exhibiting what will be achieved with a fiddle, and Mendelssohn exhibiting what will be achieved with a string quintet showcasing future stars.

Laurence Vittes

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