Thursday, March 28, 2002

Miro Quartet makes everything sound new

Concert review

By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Miro Quartet says its days of playing weddings are over. And that's good, because you should never upstage the bride.

        It was clear from first violinist Daniel Ching's subtle but effective entrance in the second movement of Beethoven's Quartet in F major, Opus 18, No.1, Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato, that the four individuals who make up the young quartet have enormous talent.

        The quartet performed to an almost full house in Corbett Auditorium at University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music as part of the Cincinnati Chamber Society's concert series. Its repertoire included the classic and the contemporary, but it all sounded fresh.

        The Miro Quartet, which also includes second violinist Satoko Yamamoto. violist John C.A. Largess and cellist Joshua Gindele, formed in 1995 at Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Within a year, the quartet was winning major chamber music competitions. They won the prestigious Naumburg Chamber Music Award in 2000.

        If there was something familiar about the concert's opener, Beethoven's Quartet in F major, perhaps it's that it sounds like a precursor, almost like a sketch, to his famed Fifth Symphony.

        The quartet played a gorgeous interpretation. And they were exciting to watch, working with great cohesion, cueing one another as they paused at times, lifting their bows for a second of silence, before landing back on the strings simultaneously. The effect was very dramatic. Very Beethoven.

        Chinese composer Chan Ka Nin's work followed. Violist John C.A. Largess told the audience that the work contained both Eastern and Western elements, a reflection of the composer himself, who was born in Hong Kong but raised in Vancouver, B.C.

        The first movement, “Giustamente con bravura” includes a dialogue — two conflicting themes — between the first violin and the viola. The melodies give way to the chordal, freer second movement, “Misterioso,” and finally culminates in a jazzy, experimental third movement, “Allegro.”

        The quartet remained rock solid in tempo throughout the piece, thanks to the strong playing of cellist Joshua Gindele. The work was explosive, but the fire never got out of control. Again, their communication was impressive.

        Brahms' Quartet in C minor, Op. 51, No. 1 closed the concert. The opening “Allegro” was expansive and majestic — with the quartet sounding more like a full orchestra. They then captured the softer, more modest nature of the second movement, “Romanze: Poco adagio,” that featured first and second violin solos and duets. The two were well-balanced. One never overshadowed the other.

        Finishing to sustained applause, the quartet then played a short piece by Haydn as an encore.


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