Amernet Quartet delivers high-voltage program at Mozart Festival

By Lawrence Budmen

Mozart’s first mature string quartet shared the spotlight with vintage Dvorak and a string transcription of piano miniatures by Shostakovich as the Amernet String Quartet took center stage at the Mainly Mozart Festival Sunday afternoon. The group’s infectious enthusiasm and rich tonal sheen transformed the usually arid acoustics of the Westin Colonnade Hotel ballroom in Coral Gables.

The first of a series of string quartets dedicated to Franz Josef Haydn, the father of the genre and Mozart’s frequent colleague in private chamber music performances, the Quartet in G Major, K.387 represents Mozart at the height of his powers. A cornucopia of musical mood swings from the somber Andante to the comic opera brio of the finale permeate this enchanting score.

In the rapid fire interplay of the opening movement, violinists Misha Vitenson and Marcia Littley were spot on, trading clipped phrases with incisive spontaneity. The players elegantly traced the stately theme of the Menuetto while bringing greater weight and strength to the surprising pauses and turns of the inventive trio. Playing with silken tone and singing line, Vitenson soared in the eloquent sadness of the Andante in contrast to the verve of the outer movements. The players capped the performance with a lithe finale, alive to the quirky twists of phrase in Mozart’s most impish, jolly manner.

Conceived as a companion to Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, Dimitri Shostakovich’s twenty four preludes for piano were composed in 1934 at the lowest ebb of the composer’s career. After his music was denounced and virtually banned by Stalin, Shostakovich sought to create a score that would adhere to the Soviet orthodoxy of “socialist realism’ while retaining a sense of irony, a subversive subtext. (The composer would play that dangerous game for much of the remainder of his career.)

In a transcription  by Yuri Vitenson, Misha’s father, the quartet offered six of these vignettes which run a rollercoaster of emotions from acerbic wit to pensive agony. Vitenson’s ingenuous arrangement skillfully reinvents these brief pieces, bringing greater color and power to Shostakovich’s striking miniatures. The players skillfully channeled the sardonic humor beneath the music’s bright veneer. In the ruminative darkness of the lower string writing, violist Michael Klotz and guest cellist Jason Calloway offered stellar support. A former member of the Biava Quartet, Calloway blended wonderfully with his colleagues and proved a tower of strength throughout the concert.

Dvorak’s Quartet in A-flat Major, Op.106 was written in 1895, immediately after the composer’s American sojourn. A product of Dvorak’s glorious Indian summer, the score is a font of endless melodic inspiration. Traversing the diverse paths of the joyous Czech dance of the second movement, the lyrically expansive Lento and the vivacious folk melodies of the finale, the Amernet’s rich corporate sonority was polished to a level of high voltage brilliance, producing a performance of glowing incandescence.

The Mainly Mozart Festival continues 4:30 p.m. Sunday with the Amernet String Quartet and violist Chauncey Patterson playing works by Mozart and Brahms. 305-444-4755.

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Mon Jun 7, 2010
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