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Brentano String Quartet at the Kreeger Museum

Monday May 21, 2007

brentano.jpgThe Washington Post 5/21/07:  The Brentano String Quartet clearly has an affinity for Beethoven. Not only does the group take its name from Antonie Brentano (thought to be the composer's mysterious "Immortal Beloved"), it's also made a name for itself with penetrating, widely praised performances of the late quartets. But the Brentano is equally committed to the works of contemporary composers, and at the Kreeger Museum on Saturday night, the ensemble brought the two together in a program that echoed dramatically across the centuries.

Beethoven's last string quartets are monumental works, regarded by many musicians as the ne plus ultra of the form. Deeply inspired by the A Minor Quartet, Op. 132, the Argentine composer Mario Davidovsky used its slow movement as a starting point for his own String Quartet No. 5, from 1988. It's a dramatic, highly compressed work that seethes with tension, seesawing between angular explosions and radiant serenity. And though the connections with Beethoven seemed elusively subtle, it proved to be a fascinating work, and the musicians gave it a robust and deeply involved performance.

Even so, the Davidovsky (and the Mozart Quartet in B-flat, K. 589, which opened the program) paled beside Beethoven's own magnificent String Quartet in E-flat, Op. 127. It's perhaps the most lyrical of the late quartets, but it's a dark, searching lyricism with confounding depths. The Brentano turned in an intense and beautifully calibrated reading that balanced the work's slow-melting beauties and its sharp wit; a memorable performance of one of the great works in the repertoire.

Posted on Monday, May 21, 2007 at 04:15PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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