Frost students show impressive maturity in new music for string quartet

By Lawrence Budmen

Festival Miami’s Emerging Young Composers concert Wednesday night at the intimate Clarke Recital Hall showcased five new scores for string quartet by composition students at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. While these works are part of the learning process for these aspiring composers, each showed remarkable fluency, assurance and craftsmanship.

Fugue by Liza Seigido was an engaging exercise in repetitive minimalism, seasoned with a touch of Mark O’Connor-style country fiddling . String Quartet No. 1 by Mirjana Petrovic opens in a folksy Americana vein but becomes progressively darker and foreboding, ending quizzically. The scary high harmonics require the musicians to play near the top of the fingerboard.

A Final Unexpected Glance by Peter Learn is a full-fledged string quartet in everything but name. This well formulated piece alternates moments of deeply expressive angst with driving folk dance rhythms. In an effective poetic conclusion, the music seems to fade away.

Plucking, strumming and a brisk ostinato launch Vacillations by Bruce Hurley Johnston. A brief, clever vignette, Vacillations is a vivid demonstration of string technique that would make a fine encore at the conclusion of a string quartet performance.

Per Motus by Alessandra Salvati was the most ambitious of the works presented. The opening section spotlights repeated fragments of a rhythmic figure, almost like a hoedown gone awry. A cello recitative leads to a more intense second movement with turbulent storm clouds lurking beneath the music’s gleaming surface. Agitated Bartok-like figurations dominate the finale, interrupted by slow, emotionally piercing interludes. While the piece could use some trimming, Salvati has created a potent, moving work that made a strong connection with the audience, receiving the most enthusiastic response of the evening.

The well rehearsed Frost School of Music students gave excellent performances throughout the concert but the faculty Bergonzi String Quartet brought that extra vitality and polished musicianship to the Salvati work that only a seasoned ensemble can accomplish. Glenn Basham was especially impressive in the high, non-stop writing for the first violin.

Festival Miami continues 4 p.m. Sunday with pianist Claire Huangci playing works by Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.1 with the Frost Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Sleeper. 305-284-4940;

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Thu Oct 6, 2011
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