Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Copeland Quartet opens new series at Church of the Holy City

It was a delight to see the Copeland String Quartet in their eleventh year – because you can feel that they have invested enough time to coordinate in that magic extra-sensory perception chamber groups get after years of performing together. 
They courageously chose three pieces by composers not known for their chamber catalogs and the results were mixed.  For me, the Copeland’s interpretation of Hugo Wolf’s wild and raucous Italian Serenade was too tame and too cautious.  Wolf was trying to make music representing a rebellious soldier wooing a damsel aggressively and I felt this damsel would have been underwhelmed.  And yet, the exploration of the unknown was intriguing.
The second piece was a lush, romantic short piece by Giacomo Puccini, Crisantemi, which he wrote for a funeral but which today would be the sort of movie theme patrons buy and take home and play again and again.  The beautiful melodic lines were played freely and with great expression by first violinist Eliezer Gutman and the group provided the support and countermelodies as if they were thinking the same thoughts and breathing the same rhythm. 

The third and last piece on the program was a surprising string quartet which Giuseppe Verdi wrote in Naples while waiting for the soprano in Aida to recover from an illness.  No surprise that this extremely operatic composer wrote a quartet that seemed like an opera.  Tom Jackson, second violin, got to lead the outer movements as if playing the alto role.  The first violin joined the duet and then the strings began to sound like the orchestral part!  The third movement gave cellist Mark Ward a chance to show off the singing high notes of the cello as his colleagues formed a pizzicato accompaniment.

The quartet played an encore which is on their third and latest CD, the Andante Espressivo  movement from Felix Mendelssohn’s Quartet in D Major, Opus 44, Nr. 1.  The group knows this piece well and played it with confidence, yet it seemed still fresh and alive. 

We are lucky to have a quartet with such longevity as the Copeland Quartet, like a fine wine, is definitely improving with age.

See www.copelandstringquartet.com


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