From a classical music standpoint, the Escher Quartet is a relatively young ensemble with plenty of potential. They’ve only been around since 2005 and have gone through a couple of membership changes, but the overall quality has remained high. This is a good thing and bodes well for the future.
As for the present, well, that was on display Tuesday night, as the most recent concert in the Buffalo Chamber Music Society’s season gave patrons an audible sample of a talented and promising group of musicians.
The program was a mix of centuries and viewpoints, with the third of Mozart’s six quartets dedicated to Haydn providing the lead and a base from which to develop the evening’s structure. It’s a marvelous piece, but the group seemed to get off to a slow start. While the notes were all there, the dramatic tension of the first movement Allegro was just a touch off.
It was as this section of the work ended that drama of a different kind was injected into the event, as a woman in the audience toppled onto the floor to the shock of her neighbors, and a call for a doctor rang out from Aaron Boyd, the Escher’s second violinist. After a quick response from some members of the audience (and an EMT), the woman was escorted out of the hall and, based upon a conversation with a Society member, probably headed for home.
All of a sudden, as if a switch had been thrown, the quartet launched into the rest of Mozart’s score with a seriousness of purpose that brought the whole into focus and turned the performance into something more bracing. This was when the concert gained impetus.
Benjamin Britten’s final completed work, his G major string quartet, was next up on the program. Boyd, who took part in the preconcert talk along with the group’s violist, Pierre Lapointe, and moderator Peter Hall, did a good job of laying out the work’s movements for the audience before the musicians played. His talk of “duets” opening the piece and leading into an ostinato rhythm followed by the “austere and lonely” third movement, a “danse macabre” and a finale that quotes from Britten’s opera “Death in Venice” was just the sort of thing to prep listeners for what was to come.
When Lapointe tossed in a comment relating the score to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich, a close friend of Britten’s, it all fit.
The feel of the Mozart quartet re: Haydn and the subtle instrumental shadings of Shostakovich’s influence on Britten made for an interesting pairing.
The piano quintet by Amy Beach (aka Mrs. H.H.A. Beach) was next up, and featured the talented pianist Benjamin Hochman as the quartet’s accompanist. Well, accompanist isn’t probably the right word for Hochman’s role in the performance. His treatment of the tense, emotional whipsaw between the opening adagio/allegro sections was spectacularly balanced within the context of the group.
Escher Quartet with pianist Benjamin Hochman
Presented by the Buffalo Chamber Music Society Tuesday evening in the Kleinhans Music Hall Mary Seaton Room, 3 Symphony Circle.