Ligeti, String Quartets, Parker Quartet (Naxos, 2009)
Mendelssohn's string quartets can leave me cold, as one of them (op. 44/2) did at the Musicians from Marlboro concert last month. It is true that op. 44/1 (no. 3 in D major) is a more pleasing work, but it was the musicality and litheness of the playing that made the Parker Quartet's performance so pleasing. A tone was set especially in the B theme of the first movement, played sotto voce and yet with intensity, which sustained the excitement of the work. The same character appeared again in the gentle Menuetto with its somber trio and in the Corelli-like serenade of the third movement, the twin violin lines intertwined over the pizzicato lower parts. Where the first movement had seemed fast but not rushed, the finale was exceedingly fast but still beautifully phrased, with peaks and valleys to prevent the piece from becoming an empty display.
Stephen Brookes, Parker Quartet uses Stradivari treasures to splendid effect at Library of Congress (Washington Post, December 20)
Mark Kanny, Parker Quartet makes strong debut in Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 19)
Miró Quartet (2012)
Borromeo Quartet (2011)
Parker Quartet (2009)
Harlem Quartet (2008)
Formosa Quartet (2007)
Ensō Quartet (2006)
Jupiter Quartet (2005)
In every concert we have reviewed, the Parkers have collaborated with more senior musicians, with Kim Kashkashian on second viola in the Brahms G minor quintet (JCCGW, 2010), with members of the Borromeo Quartet (Library of Congress, 2008), and with Roger Tapping on second viola in Mozart's third quintet (Corcoran, 2006). Here it was Kikuei Ikeda, violist of the now-disbanded Tokyo String Quartet, who took the second viola part for Dvořák's op. 97 string quintet, where he was often featured in prominent ways (with the opening gestures in the first two movements, among others). This turned out to be the least satisfying part of the program, though, with the pristine intonation and razor-sharp ensemble unsettled just slightly by the addition of Ikeda. The first movement had a moody feel to it, in spite of the folk-like melodic material, with the second movement as rambunctious as a hoe down, followed by a melancholy slow movement and a jaunty dance finale. In spite of some shortcomings, it was a thrill to hear two Stradivari violas -- the "Tuscan-Medici" from 1690 and the "Cassavetti" from 1727 (one-fifth of the ten Stradivarius violas known to survive in the entire world) -- side by side in this delightful work.
The Parker Quartet and violist Kikeui Ikeda perform again this evening, on the concert series at Evermay in Georgetown.