Delray Quartet closes season with the darker side of Mendelssohn

By David Fleshler

Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in A Minor is a warhorse of the novice repertoire, a work heard most frequently in performances by platoons of Suzuki violin students. But there is good music in it, and the fine Delray String Quartet commissioned an arrangement that made an engaging opening for the light second half of its concert Sunday.

 The quartet, one of the strongest of South Florida’s classical ensembles, performed its last concert of the season at the historic Colony Hotel in downtown Delray Beach.  The group will add a Broward venue to the schedule in 2009-2010, with Saturday night performances at All Saints Episcopal Church, just off Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. That’s good news for a part of South Florida that’s starved for first-rate live chamber music.

 The first half of Sunday’s concert was devoted to the most substantial work on the program, Mendelssohn’s Quartet in F Minor, Op. 80. One of his last works, it was composed as he mourned the death of his beloved sister Fanny. Mendelssohn being Mendelssohn, you’d expect even his expressions of grief to be smooth, elegant and well crafted. But there is a raw edge to this work, with long-held dissonances and savage trills, and the quartet chose to sacrifice surface gloss for intensity, giving a hard-driving performance that brought out a rarely heard side of Mendelssohn’s musical personality.

 First violinist Mei Mei Luo blazed through the difficult passage work, producing a performance that, while not note-perfect, yielded lots of fire and passion. Claudia Cagnassone did a fine job as a substitute for the quartet’s regular second violinist. And violist Richard Fleischman and cellist Susan Moyer Bergeron provided a sturdy, rich-toned performance on the lower registers.

 In addition to the Vivaldi, the quartet’s second half included a lyric performance of an arrangement of Debussy’s Girl with the Flaxen Hair. And the ensemble concluded with Johann Strauss’ Emperor Waltz, a familiar work that came across with a bit too much intensity, as if their minds were still on the Mendelssohn, without much evidence of relaxed Viennese warmth.

David Fleshler is a staff writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where he has reviewed classical music for the past two years. He plays the violin and grew up in a musical family, with both parents playing in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment

Mon Apr 6, 2009
at 12:02 pm
No Comments