by Neil McCalmont
The first-ever season of ENCORE Chamber Music began with an impassioned and learnèd concert by the Miró Quartet on Saturday evening, June 18 in the chapel of Gilmour Academy. ENCORE, founded by renowned violinist Jinjoo Cho, is a seven-week summer camp for elite young string players and pianists. Students hone their skills through coachings, masterclasses, and concerts by seasoned professionals.
The Miró Quartet — made up of Daniel Ching and William Fedkenheuer, violins, John Largess, viola, and Joshua Gindele, cello — treated the audience to a program of the traditional German masters: Haydn, Beethoven, and Brahms, reinforcing the aura of scholarship at this festival. Haydn is credited with the invention of the string quartet, Beethoven revolutionized the genre with his personal sound, and Brahms refined it with his delicate craftsmanship. Between pieces, Fedkenheuer and Largess gave brief educational talks about the composers’ influences.
The opening chords of Haydn’s Quartet in D, Op. 20, No. 4, struck an impressive balance. The quartet’s warm and slightly lush sound still carried an undertone of the crisp “Classical” feel — as if they hit their instruments’ “sweet spot.” The first movement unfolded into an enjoyable, remarkably precise dialogue. Cellist Gindele stood out in the following adagio with his careful phrasing of the melody and accenting of certain notes, resulting in a playful interpretation characteristic of Haydn. The composer’s writing, complicated for its time, rarely has the instruments share the same line of music, but the few bars in unison were stunning, highlighting the Miró’s impeccable intonation. The quartet, glancing and gesturing at one another during the chipper finale, seemed like a family onstage.
Showcasing the composer’s emotional turbulence, their tone shifted to a robust yet clear sound for Beethoven’s Quartet in f, Op. 95 (“Serioso”). The coda of the first movement danced in an infernal blaze, and Largess executed the viola solo brilliantly in the allegretto. The third movement (from which this quartet gets its name) revolves around a forceful dotted rhythm. Thanks to the acute articulation by the Miró, it only became more interesting and penetrating as it was repeated. Stormy winds seemed to roll across both violins during the finale, a convincingly poetic reading that culminated in a surprisingly upbeat finale, as if Beethoven ended it with a joke!
The magnum opus of the evening was Brahms’ Quartet in c, Op. 51, No. 1. The Miró began this epic quartet with a smooth, breathing tempo. Contrasts flowed effortlessly from dark to serene to even darker. In the romanze their strings pulled at your own heart strings. The harmonic delicacies were captured perfectly, fluctuating in tone between luscious romanticism and a light glimpse of heaven. Gindele’s low register resonated brilliantly, and his rolled pizzicato chords were particularly graceful. The third movement allowed Largess once again to shine with a captivating solo supported by the rocking waves of the quartet. Ching and Fedkenheuer captured a yearning pain in their high registers during the final movement. But the Miró had saved the biggest and most impressive sound for the final bars — so intense that words could never do it justice.
They selected the slow movement from Beethoven’s Quartet in F, Op. 135 as an encore, a pristinely beautiful and emotionally satisfying finish.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com June 21, 2016.
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