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Left Bank Concert Society Performs Kurtág and Hindemith

György KurtágSunday afternoon’s performance of the Left Bank Concert Society at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater featured an intriguing program, with the Left Bank String Quartet and its members performing the bulk of the program. György Kurtág, in Hommage à Mihály András: Twelve Microludes for String Quartet (op. 13, 1977), gives a nod to J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier by exploring the twelve notes of the scale, though condensed into twelve diverse, yet brief sketches based on a chromatic scale ascending from C. Variation no. 5 had all instruments muted and often playing with harmonics, thus creating the most fragile of textures. Programming Kurtág’s Six Moments Musicaux (op. 44, 2005) for string quartet allowed the audience to experience a more elaborate bouquet. Angular and sometimes humorous movements were balanced by those more contained. Similar to the fifth Microlude, the fifth of the Moments Musicaux, titled …Rappel des oiseaux…[Étude pour les harmoniques], expressed an ethereal, layered texture memorably unique to these ears.

Mezzo-soprano Dolores Ziegler’s moving rendition of Hindemith’s Des Todes Tod (op. 23a, 1922), accompanied by two violas and celli, explored a slowly unfolding expressionistic landscape, personifying Death’s death musically and through the dramatic text. Violinist Sally McLain’s performance of Hindemith’s Sonata for Solo Violin (op. 31, no. 2, 1924) featured an outstanding blend of perfection in accuracy, stability of tone, and attention to detail. Cleverly programming a work representing Hindemith’s brighter side immediately after Des Todes Tod, McLain savored the sonata movement containing variations on Mozart’s tune Komm, lieber Mai with virtuosic delight.

Other Reviews:

Stephen Brookes, Left Bank Quartet's Light Touch (Washington Post, January 15)
As the Left Bank Quartet is seemingly most at home with less trodden repertoire, having Brahms’s Quartet in B-flat -- an often-played work this season, reviewed just last month from both the Formosa Quartet and the Emerson Quartet -- fill the second half of the concert might have thrown the program off balance. The Brahms was further weakened by the Left Bank Quaret’s somewhat careful, surface-like approach and limited dynamic range. This lack of grounding sometimes allowed the tempo to fluctuate dangerously instead of merely flexing naturally. Katherine Murdock’s viola playing in the Agitato movement was ideal.

The next concert of the Left Bank Concert Society is called Frank Conversations and Intimate Letters, featuring music by Finzi, Kirchner, Haas, and Janáček, at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (March 8, 8 pm).

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