Strings Kick Off Artist Recital Series
Finney Chapel was nearly at capacity on Saturday night in anticipation of the opening concert of the Artist Recital Series with the Emerson String Quartet. The diverse crowd, filled with community members, faculty and students, enjoyed a first-rate performance by three members of the quartet — Philip Setzer on violin, Eugene Drucker on viola and the unflappably energetic and tuneful David Finckel on cello.
The first half of the program was Mozart’s entire Divertimento for String Trio in E-flat major, K. 563, a six-movement trip through the composer’s stylistic repertoire, including two entertaining minuets and an opera-buffa-esque rondo. The three players appreciated the careful voice-leading and hidden structural jokes in Mozart’s music, and highlighted them with sensitivity and a great deal of historicity.
The second half of the program brought Finckel’s wife and musical partner, pianist Wu Han, to the stage. Robed in a silken, rainbow garment, she bowed gracefully to the audience and seated herself at the piano.
For the second half of the concert, the trio plus Wu Han performed Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25, a beautiful, Romantic expedition into the possibilities of innovation within the context of form. Wu Han’s musical sensibility was immediately evident; she was a dynamic and passionate force at the keyboard, reaching out to each string player in turn, and executing technically difficult runs with ease and stunning beauty.
All four movements of Brahms’ Quartet are thematically related, although each is completely different in character, which, in the hands of the Emerson players, made for a unified, uplifting musical experience. The audience rose to its feet after the fiery last movement, realizing that they had just witnessed something magical — music of the masters brought to life.