The Music Department of the University of Delaware has put on some amazing concerts over the years. Their latest Mendelssohn Festival with The Calidore String Quartet as visiting guest artists is an ambitious undertaking with all of the published string quartets of Felix Mendelssohn and his Octet for Strings, performed with UD's Ensemble-in-Residence, Serafin String Quartet.
The Calidore Quartet was founded in 2010 while the members were in Los Angeles studying at the Colburn Conservatory. They discovered their potential as an ensemble when they first began to work on the Mendelssohn String Quartet, Opus 13, which was actually the composer’s first mature string quartet, although it was the second to be published.
|The Calidore String Quartet.|
Both Estelle Choi, cello and Jeremy Berry, viola are able to bring these voices to the fore without dominating the ensemble’s sound. The first two movements of Four pieces for quartet, Opus 81 feature the viola leading the melodic chase, but the cello also has a big and dominant part in the Tema con variazioni which segues into a brief but thrilling Presto. Choi’s vibrant tone and acute attention to detail makes the harmony for the quartet work.
In all of the music of the first two days of the festival, the sound was so well blended that it seemed almost to be performed by a single musician. First violinist Jeffrey Myers, a tall and lanky man, leans into his violin, tilting his head to the left as if to hear himself better. But then he turns to the other players before lowering the sound of the violin as he plays in the low register, to just the point at which you can hear his soft melodic line over the others, who manage to play even softer at the end of the Allegro vivace of Opus 13. As the recapitulation of the theme (Mendelssohn’s short song: Ist es wahr?/Is it true?), the quartet diminishes the sound to the softest nothing as they reach the final chord.
When the two violinists Jeffrey Meyers and Ryan Meehan trade off the melodic lines in the Scherzo of the Four pieces for string quartet, Opus 81, it is impossible to tell who is playing. Their innate ability to match each other’s intonation and bowing make it sound like a single line of music. Each of them also have a solid sound in the low register of the violin which projects well, even at a soft dynamic.
The Calidore played the String Quartet Opus 44, No. 3 so fast that the sixteenth note patterns which come after the repeat in the Allegro vivace sound like trills — magically even and exciting. They played the fourth movement, Molto allegro con fuoco, with very big sforzandi, giving the entire movement a playful, roller coaster feel.
When they played the last quartet written by Mendelssohn, Opus 80, they talked about how he wrote this after his beloved sister Fanny died suddenly. He used this very beautiful piece as a metaphor of his grief, writing a wailing and sustained high B-flat for the first violin, which Jeffrey Myers managed to make a delicate cry of anguish.
Having a quartet of this caliber visit the Gore Recital Hall, with its fine acoustics for such intimate concerts, is a treasure. The Calidore have won impressive international chamber music competitions. They have a wide range of repertoire, including some dissonant and modern pieces like the Anton Webern Five Movements for String Quartet, Opus 5, which you can hear online here.
And if you miss the Mendelssohn Festival, the Calidore Quartet’s mentors, the Emerson Quartet, will appear at the University of Delaware on Sunday, April 30.
See www.music.udel.edu or call 302.831.2577.