Amernet Quartet and friends pay tribute to an FIU benefactor

By Lawrence Budmen


The Amernet String Quartet were joined by colleagues for a concert Tuesday night at FIU.

The Amernet String Quartet presented a tribute to Dr. Joel Glaser, the late Miami ophthalmologist and arts patron, Tuesday night at Florida International University’s Wertheim Concert Hall.  Since Glaser was an amateur cellist, the program featured a score for three cellos and a Brahms sextet with two cellos. A scholarship fund in Glaser’s memory at the FIU school of music was announced at the performance.

Israeli-born cellist Yehuda Hanani opened the concert with the Adagio non troppo from Boccherini’s Concerto in B-flat Major, backed by the quartet. Hanani’s rich, darkly burnished tone and noble phrasing conveyed the grave beauty of this slow movement. In the cadenza, the cellist segued into a quotation from the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, adding an improvisatory air to the performance.

The premiere of a suite for string quartet by Owen Leech, Glaser’s son, found the Amernet players in top form. The London-based composer’s appealing, skillfully constructed score obliquely commented on J.S. Bach’s cello suites. An opening prelude is a rapid-paced fugue transmitted in repetitive minimalist rhetoric. The British pastoral aura of the Air and Chaconne turns bristling and edgy. Broadly elegiac strains dominate the Epilogue with the Sarabande linking Baroque forms with the intense fervor of later musical eras. Leech gives each of the four instruments a solo turn, displaying the quartet members’ individual skill.

Requiem for three cellos and piano by David Popper was a welcome discovery from the byways of late romanticism. A cellist and composer, Popper was a friend and contemporary of Brahms. (Along with violinist Jeno Hubay and Brahms at the piano, Popper played the premiere of Brahms’ Trio No. 3.) A wealth of melodic and  emotional ruminations dominate the heartbreakingly beautiful work. While clearly a late nineteenth-century romantic, Popper’s voice is refreshingly individual, devoid of the ersatz Brahmsian clichés of some of his contemporaries. A superbly calibrated, deeply eloquent performance fused the talents of Hanani, Amernet cellist Jason Calloway and Ross Harbaugh, cello professor at the University of Miami Frost School of Music and member of the Bergonzi String Quartet. Their different styles matched the score’s outbursts of  melancholy and quiet repose. Leech offered supple pianistic underpinnings.

Hanani and violist Jason McCoy, an FIU student, joined the Amernet foursome for Brahms’ Sextet No.1 in B-flat Major. A broadly shaped performance marked by impeccable ensemble playing captured Brahms’ wonderful sense of light and shadow. The opening movement perfectly mixed ardor with tempest tossed passion. In the Adagio, ma moderato the solemn majesty of the main theme never obscured the undercurrent of struggle. Michael Klotz’s viola sang the principle subject in large, rotund tones. Viennese lightness and verve enlivened the Scherzo, the melodies bouncing off the strings in idiomatic style. Calloway launched the final Rondo with a mellow, stately cello solo, the music building in intensity to a vigorous, life-affirming coda. Momentum never flagged in a performance that flowed with natural grace from first bar to last.

Posted in Performances

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Wed Oct 19, 2011
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