Avalon String Quartet



The Music Guild
Cal State Long Beach
Gerald R. Daniel Recital Hall
Long Beach, CA
January 30, 2007
8:00 pm


Haydn: Quartet Op 64 No. 5 in D Major “The Lark”
Mendelssohn: Op 44 No 2 in E Minor
Beethoven: String Quartet Op 131 in C# Minor

Music Guild Concerts Always Top-Notch

By Jim Ruggirello, for Grunion Gazette, published on  February 8, 2007

There were no surprises, only delights. When you go to a Music Guild concert you know what you are going to get. You know parking will be a hassle. You know that you will have a long trek either from Atherton or the parking lot to Daniel Recital Hall. You know the campus of California State University, Long Beach, will be dark and you will have to watch your step, especially when it’s wet. But you also know that it will be a great concert. You will be hearing a top-notch professional group, either a string quartet or a piano trio with an occasional extra instrument thrown in, play masterworks of the standard chamber music repertoire. And you know that you will be part of a seasoned audience that doesn’t turn a hair, let alone clap or cough, between movements and that knows this stuff inside and out. The concert by the Avalon Quartet the other night held no mysteries. It was an exceedingly safe (if technically daunting) program of Haydn, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. No world premieres, no encores. The evening did have a special character, and that was due to the Avalon’s lively personality. From the first notes of Haydn’s sunny “Lark” quartet (I’d better watch my adjectives; there’s also a “Sun” quartet, which is kind of larky), the group played aggressively, charmingly and with extremes of color, dynamics and mood that made the music come vividly to life. Everything they did they did together. The ensemble was impeccable, and while each instrumentalist would occasionally step forward (figuratively) to play a solo passage, those solos were inevitably and seamlessly woven into the larger fabric. This foursome thought and acted as one. (No surprise there either, come to think of it; the first violinist, Blaise Magnière, and the second, Marie Wang, are married. Reportedly Baby Magnière-Wang is on his way.) Mendelssohn’s quartets are relatively unknown and under-appreciated, but there is some great music in the E minor quartet Op. 44, No. 2. The Avalon chose to emphasize Mendelssohn the classicist, keeping any Romantic sensibilities in check and delivering a lovely, balanced performance. The announced “Rasumovsky” No. 2 was replaced by one of Beethoven’s richest creations, the Op. 131 in C-sharp minor. Late Beethoven is not for sissies, and the Avalon tore into this monumental work with vigor and poise. Because their conception was so tastefully in line with Beethoven’s intentions, and because they are such marvelous players, individually and collectively, they were able to bring the audience with them on Beethoven’s long journey, illuminating each shift of texture, tempo and dynamics along the way. This thing takes about 40 minutes, and is as exhausting for the audience as it is the players. At the end, the crowd did not leap to its feet with huzzahs, as I had every right to expect, but rather sat sort of stunned, taking it all in. The well-deserved ovation took awhile to unfold. So chalk up another remarkable concert by the Music Guild. No surprise there.

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