The Calidore Quartet @ The Playhouse 20th May 2017

On Saturday 20th May I went to a packed Playhouse to see the highly talented Calidore Quartet, from New York City. They began with Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 12 in F “The American”. Then a blistering version of String Quartet no. 1 “Métamorphoses Nocturnes” – by Ligeti. The set ended with Tchaikovsky’s first String Quartet and a Mendelssohn encore. The spiky Ligeti piece with its drunken waltz in the middle was the stand-out for me. (Unfortunately, I can’t find their Ligeti online so here’s a Mendelssohn clip instead).
“Although the String Quartet No. 1 is ostensibly a one-movement work lasting over 20 minutes, this single movement makes up many sections of disparate character. The piece opens with a stepwise melody (G-A-G sharp-A sharp) accompanied by chromatic scales. A second theme is angular, staccato, and aggressive. Closer attention to these two apparently disparate sections, however, reveals similarities in their melodic contours, which are based on the relatively simple chromaticism of the opening motif. New ideas and textures succeed one another throughout the piece, typically in fast-slow-fast alternation (another Bartók technique), but the melodic characteristics of each section may be traced to the piece’s opening. Variation of rhythm provides the piece with much of its sense of progression, with somewhat amorphous passages giving way to the quick irregular meters of a dance form; there are also other stylistic parodies of folk music. Use of biting dissonance (one of the reasons the composer’s more advanced work was not officially supported) occurs throughout; the second section features passages of parallel minor seconds. Ligeti’s ear for unusual timbral possibilities is already at work in this early piece. High harmonic glissandi near the end of the work may presage the distinctive sound of Apparitions and the later pieces for which Ligeti came to be known.” – Robert Kerzinger.


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