Amernet Quartet and friends deliver riveting Brahms and Schumann

By Lawrence Budmen

Amernet String Quartet

The Amernet String Quartet and guest artists presented masterpieces by Brahms and Schumann Tuesday night at the Wertheim Concert Hall. The resident chamber ensemble at Florida International University, the quartet was in fine fettle, bringing vitality and conviction to two pillars of the repertoire.

Because of its unusual configuration of two violins, two violas and two cellos, Brahms’ Sextet in G Major is rarely played. This rich and multifaceted score is quintessential Brahms, spare yet intense and replete with complex instrumental invention. Joined by violist Yizhak Schotten and cellist Robert deMaine, the Amernet offered a riveting performance, serving Brahms at white heat. The opening Allegro non troppo springs forth with noble melodic lines. The players’  broad tempo never allowed loss of tension, the interplay of voices vividly etched. Michael Klotz’s dark hue and incisive declamation highlighted the prominent viola solos while Jason Calloway’s warmly burnished cello was eloquent in the lyricism of the noble secondary theme.

A scherzo of gossamer lightness in the manner of Mendelssohn was leavened by a zesty trio, rendered with the paprika of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances. With Mischa Vitenson and Marcia Littley’s soaring violin tone the Adagio was ablaze with emotion, the sudden outbursts given incendiary conviction by the full ensemble. Always maintaining transparency of texture, the players turned up the heat for the Poco Allegro finale, dispatching the contrapuntal voicing with fiery abandon. The impressive unanimity and tonal heft of the six players propelled a performance that skillfully balanced precision and spontaneity.

The superb pianist Valentina Lisitsa joined the quartet for Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat Major. Lisitsa’s fleet-fingered pianism reveled in the grandiose romanticism of Schumann’s impassioned writing, the quartet’s taut expressivity conveying the tempest-tossed vistas of this masterwork. Dark gravitas marked the funereal march of the second movement. While the players assayed the Scherzo at unusually fast speed, the musical line never failed to sparkle, Lisitsa’s accuracy and boundless virtuosity made a strong imprint on this whirlwind movement. Throwing caution to the winds, the musicians attacked the finale with head long thrust. The sheer ferocity and abandon of the performance carried the day. A few brief lapses of ensemble were a small price to pay for music making of such exciting impetuosity and fervor.

The performance of the Schumann quintet was dedicated to veteran Miami impresario Julian Kreeger of Friends of Chamber Music in honor of his recent contribution of over twenty thousand recordings and books to the FIU School of Music.

Posted in Performances

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Wed Feb 16, 2011
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