Bergonzi Quartet sparks Mozart festival with Ravel and Gershwin

By Lawrence Budmen

The Bergonzi Quartet performed Sunday afternoon at the Mainly Mozart Festival.

The music of George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Cuban band leader Rene Touzet shared billing with Mozart and Ravel at the Memorial Day weekend edition of the Mainly Mozart Festival. A packed house greeted the Bergonzi String Quartet’s eclectic program Sunday at the Coral Gables Museum.

With the quartet in top form, the stately opening chords of Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue in C minor rang with unaccustomed strength, the somber reverence of Mozart’s tribute to Bach strongly captured. In the contrasting fugue, contrapuntal lines were crisply articulated at fleet speed.

Ravel’s Quartet in F Major was accorded the afternoon’s finest performance. The  flowing shape and transparent textures of the opening Moderato set the impressionistic mood,  melodic lines emerging through the instrumental mist. Incisive pizzicatos at the onset of the second movement preceded the languor of the central episode where Ravel’s sensuous themes were bathed in rich string tones.

The Tres lent (third movement) is one of those  spare, deliberately paced slow movements unique to Ravel’s chamber works. The quiet dialogue between instruments was beautifully conveyed, the layering of timbres soft and resonant in Gallic allure. Violinist Glenn Basham serenely repeated the opening theme of the first movement in a moment of striking expressive force, and finely turned solos by violist Pamela Mc Connell and cellist Ross Harbaugh contributed to the rapt ambience. The restless agitation of the finale offered the players’ loudest performance of the afternoon, Ravel’s skittering, glossy figurations in the instruments’ highest registers dispatched with verve.

Basham’s arrangement of Gershwin’s Three Preludes mixed Jascha Heifetz’s violin transcription with Gershwin’s more jazz-inflected keyboard writing. A touch of ragtime appealingly flavored the quartet’s rendition of the first prelude. The blues-tinged Andante sang in unhurried, fluent style while the final Agitato was vivacious in a distinctly American manner.

Violinist’s Scott Flavin’s transcriptions of Gershwin’s The Man I Love and Porter’s What Is this Thing Called Love recalled the intimacy and elegance of the cafe. Touzet’s Siempre en Clave is one of the late Miami-based composer’s set of Cuban dances, originally for solo piano. Flavin’s transcription combined the warmth and color of string timbres with Touzet’s pulsing, irresistible Latin rhythms, played with spirit and vigor.

The perennial Rhapsody in Blue was presented in an arrangement for piano and string quartet by Patricia Rudisill, a former Basham student at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, Rudisill gave her former professor the big clarinet solo that opens this iconic score, the violin’s sweet tones setting the salon mood of this small scale reworking of the 20th-century showpiece. The quartet alertly conveyed Gershwin’s brisk rhythms and melodic luster but pianist Tian Ying was a problematic soloist. While Ying displayed strong technique and played with considerable brilliance, his rubato was mired in Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff and his phrasing was mannered and affected. With a hard, percussive touch, Ying’s performance failed to swing, shortchanging the score’s jazzy energy.

The Mainly Mozart Festival concludes 4:30 p.m. June 3 with the Sona String Quartet, violist John T. Posada and double bassist Brian Powell playing works by Stravinsky, Zemlinsky and Mozart.  786-468-2251;

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2 Responses to “Bergonzi Quartet sparks Mozart festival with Ravel and Gershwin”

  1. Posted Jun 12, 2012 at 11:07 pm by Jemma G.

    With all due respect, I would hardly call Ying a problematic soloist. I think the Rhapsody was the highlight of the program, particularly because of the beautiful piano playing. I think he’s a powerful yet sensitive player and had plenty of swing!

  2. Posted Aug 05, 2013 at 7:59 am by Piotr

    I have a question… Is it possible to bay and where sheets Rhapsody in Blue in an arrangement for piano and string quartet by Patricia Rudisill ???
    Piotr from Poland

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Mon May 28, 2012
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