Avalon String Quartet
Birmingham Chamber Music Society
Brock Recital Hall
January 22, 2013
Beethoven: String Quartet Op 18 No 6 in Bb Major
Meltzer, Harold: Aqua (2008 Barlow Commission Prize)
Brahms: String Quartet No 2 in A Minor
Meltzer’s ‘Aqua’ sparks the imagination in Avalon String Quartet
By Michael Huebner, for Al.com, published on January 23, 2013
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — For his string quartet, “Aqua,” composer Harold Meltzer has drafted a variation on the aphorism, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” He has written music about architecture.
The Illinois-based Avalon String Quartet, the ensemble that introduced the work in 2011, performed it Tuesday at Brock Recital Hall as the centerpiece between quartets by Beethoven and Brahms, part of the 2012-13 Birmingham Chamber Music Society series.
If music has the capacity to elicit a three-dimensional vision, this was it. With little imagination on listeners’ part, Meltzer connected palpably to architect Jeanne Gang’s 86-story, 859-foot Chicago high-rise, Aqua Tower. Waves of arpeggios, glistening warmth, darkening shadows and splashes of light conjured the passage of clouds and sun on the building’s exterior, its billowing balconies undulating softly through slowly unfolding dissonant harmonies.
Meltzer, who spoke to the audience about his compositional process, compared it with the haystacks Monet painted at various seasons and times of day. Like the tower, this music that lifted and soared, if only in the imagination. If, as Goethe contended, architecture is frozen music, Meltzer has provided a thawing mechanism.
AVALON STRING QUARTET
Blaise Magnière and Marie Wang violinists; Antony Devroye, violist; Cheng- Hou Lee, cellist Quartets by Beethoven, Meltzer and Brahms Tuesday, Brock Recital Hall Presented by Birmingham Chamber Music Society
The Avalon’s egalitarian focus was evident from the beginning if the concert. Beethoven’s String Quartet in B flat major, Op.18, No. 6, a forward-looking, often mood-shifting work from a composer still in his late 20s, was colored with softness and subtlety in the opening Allegro, sudden tempo shifts and rapid flourishes taking hold in the finale. The Adagio was lovingly played, the exchanges between violist Antony Devroye and cellist Cheng-Hou Lee adding to its charm. Thorny syncopations and off-the-beat accents infused anticipation and energy into the Scherzo. Brahms’ String Quartet in A minor, Op. 51, No. 2, began with sweeping yet conversational interplay. Blend and transparency were dominant in the Andante, leading to the intricacy of the Quasi Minuetto third movement and bold swashes of the finale.