Monday, February 08, 2010

Morrison Artists Series: Afiara String Quartet

Morrison Artists Series: Afiara String Quartet
February 7, 2010 3:00pm
San Francisco State University
McKenna Theatre, Creative Arts Building

Mozart: Quartet No. 19 in C, K. 465 Dissonance
Berg: Lyric Suite
Mendelssohn: String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13

Despite, or maybe because of, Super Bowl 2010, there was such a big turn out for the Afiara String Quartet this afternoon that the house ran out of printed programs. I was attracted by the substantive & balanced program on offer. I was especially glad of the chance to hear Berg's Lyric Suite. I own 2 CDs of this piece, but hearing it live I realized that it creates a lot of timbres that just do not come across well in a recording. The Afiara Quartet may even have an affinity for this work, & they brought a lot of concentration to their performance.

The young members of the quartet play with an easy technical facility & with perfect ensemble, yet they are also 4 distinct musical personalities. Cellist Adrian Fung has a big, sometimes booming, sound which is quite prominent. 1st violinist Valerie Li has a sweet sound on her higher strings which changes to a warm tone lower down. She often sounds like she is about to take flight. I was always aware of hearing individual voices assert themselves.

Members of OLLI were welcomed during the introductory remarks. SFSU sponsors a local chapter. This is a social group for people 50 & up who are interested in cultural programming. As a privilege of membership, they attended a champagne reception during the intermission. Before the Mendelssohn, violist David Samuel thanked the Alexander String Quartet, who had coached them during a residency at SFSU. I had spotted the Alexander's 2 violinists during the intermission.

Audiences for the Morrison Artists Series are eager, & I especially enjoyed the performance of an elderly woman who carefully took her time finding a seat in the front of the hall. We were past the eerie introduction of the Mozart & well into the exposition before she was settled in.


Gavin Plumley said...

I do hope that one of the recordings you have of the Berg is the superlative Kronos Quartet version with Dawn Upshaw singing in the final movement. It is absolutely superb... to be listened to in conjunction with decoded score. Amazing.

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks for another fine recommendation, Mr. Plumley. I actually have never heard the vocal version of the quartet, so I will seek this out. Finding a decoded score sounds like more of a challenge.

Gavin Plumley said...

It is absolutely amazing... the score is published by Universal Edition, but beware as there are two versions. The story behind the piece is up there with the Janacek 'Intimate Letters' quartet.