Thursday, January 28, 2010

Arneis Ensemble Plays Brahms, Haydn, and Bartok

I think I am quickly becoming the Arneis Quartet’s biggest fan. Their concert on Tuesday night was wonderful. The setting was beautiful St. Paul’s Church in Brookline. The warm acoustics are a treat for the performer and even better for an audience member. I had the enviable experience of listening to my new favorite string quartet play a program of Haydn, Bartok, and Brahms.

The Haydn was elegant and gentile with a good sense of humor demonstrated by the musicians especially in the Menuet and Trio. In general, I love Papa Haydn’s sunny works. Even at their darkest, they seem only like a short summer squall that quickly yields to a blue sky. I have heard them play this work twice now in concert and I’m pleased to say that the second time around was just as enjoyable as the first. They have inspired me to listen to more of the quartets from Haydn’s huge catalog in the genre.

I love the Bartok’s second quartet, which they performed after the Haydn. I am especially fond of the second movement with its dance-like rhythms and high-energy feel. I thought Arneis really played the tar out of it! The first and last movements of the quartet are a bit more difficult for the listener, but they made sense out of both. There was some lovely sensitive playing in the first movement where motives were traded off effortlessly. The quartet’s facial expressions were fun to watch while they played this piece. I could tell it required a great deal of mental stamina. There were furrowed brows of concentration, raised eyebrows of anticipation, and big smiles of relief. I also enjoyed seeing two younger member in the audience, probably 3rd or 4th grade students, listening with rapt attention to this work in particular. Who says kids don’t enjoy classical music!?!?

The Brahms Quartet in a minor, however, was the highlight of the evening for me. Don’t shoot me, but I must confess having a bit of disconnection with the music of Brahms. Arneis succeeded in bringing the piece to life for me and I was pleased that I enjoyed the rich textures of the music as much as I did. I really liked that they took opportunities to lighten up their sounds whenever possible instead of always playing full tilt. I find Brahms heavy, and I loved their delicate approach to this amazing piece. Maybe there is hope for me yet!

There was a decent crowd for a cold Tuesday night, and I can only imagine that future attendance will only improve. These guys are playing great concerts for FREE! Once the word gets out about the quality of their performances, I know folks will be lining up to get in. You can check out their concert schedule by clicking this link for future programs.

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