Sunday, February 22, 2009

Alexander String Quartet

Morrison Artists Series Concert: Alexander String Quartet
February 22, 2009 @ 3 pm
SF State, Creative Arts Building, McKenna Theatre

World War II commemoration
Haydn: Emperor Quartet Op. 76, No. 3
Bartok: Quartet No. 6
Shostakovich: Quartet No. 2

Brahms: Liebeslieder Waltz arr. by 1st violinist Zakarias Grafilo

I was drawn to this Morrison Artists Series Concert by the great program. The afternoon was well worth the trek out to SF State in the rain. After a low-key Haydn, the Alexander Quartet hit their stride with their edgy Bartok. I liked violist Paul Yarbrough's brisk pizzicato strumming in the 2nd movement & the boisterous humor of the 3rd movement Burletta. In the pause after the 2nd movement, 2nd violinist Frederick Lifsitz had to admonish someone in the front rows not to take pictures. We had seen a couple of cameras flashes go off during the 1st half.

The Shostakovich was raw & vigorous. I liked the careful & focused playing in the 2nd movement, with its sustained violin solo against a taut background of the other strings. The quartet plays with great conviction, & their sound is often raw rather than having surface beauty. I like the biting attacks that all the players have. The 2nd violinist often conferred with the other members between movements, & I got that feeling that he was a dominant personality in the group.

SF State was the site of a chamber music conference this afternoon, & there were many strings players in the audience. When announcing the encore, Mr. Lifsitz took this specialist audience into account & made several self-deprecating jokes at the expense of 2nd violinists.

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