Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On the Map


It was purely coincidence, one of those things that just happens: two outstanding string quartets played back-to-back: the Emerson String Quartet on Sunday and Quatuor Mosaïques on Monday. Both had programs of … Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven. Indeed, the same Beethoven, the F Major, Op. 135. Both concert halls were state-of-the-art, and less than a mile apart. We didn't realize this until the last minute, which was just as well, because artistic director Laurent Planchon had one of those panic attacks artistic directors have. How lucky could you get?

Not to worry. Our concert with Quatuor Mosaïques may have had an unfair advantage: it was the second of the two, and so the one freshest in the minds of those who attended both. The conditions were perfect. The performers were well-rested. And, they had really magnificent instruments played at about A433 and strung with gut. Completely different sound!

If you read periodicals like FanFare, you will run into many strong opinions about string quartets that use period instruments: most of them condescending, if not outright negative. A chief complaint is the sound, which is often described as being thin and vibrato-less. The sound of Quatuor Mosaïques was by no means thin. Nor was it vibrato-less: to me they used vibrato judiciously. Perhaps less than modern practice, but it was a rich and natural sound.

I did not attend the Emerson String Quartet concert (I was busy feeding my new pals of Quatuor Mosaïques), but I personally love their recordings. However, I can't resist mentioning that several who attended both concerts said very nice things about our concert. Very nice.

As for the performers, they said very nice things about us. I have heard this many times this year: our performers appreciate San Diego’s attentive, enthusiastic, and clearly educated audience. They have all liked our venues, ranking them amongst the best of their tour. San Diego is viewed as a desirable and important stop by important musicians. We are definitely on the map.

—Kemer

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