Ensemble
Acclaim
Concert review: Aeolus Quartet triumphant in return

The Aeolus String Quartet returned to the WCR Center for the Arts as part of the Friends of Chamber Music of Reading series Friday night, proving once again what a fine group of musical actors they are.

Like regular actors, the members have the capacity to project moods, inhabit characters and tell stories; the difference is, they do it without speech, using only their instruments and making the best use of dramatic pauses that I've heard.

This young, dynamic quartet appeared here in October 2009; their performance again was greeted warmly by a capacity audience. Second violinist Rachel Kitagawa Shapiro is a Berks County native who, not long ago, served as concertmistress of the Reading Symphony Youth Orchestra.

She and first violinist Nicholas Tavani, violist Gregory Luce and cellist Alan Richardson have what it takes to become a major quartet, if they stick together and continue as they are doing.

As an ensemble they have charisma, dazzling chops and the ability to put together a meaningful and emotionally satisfying program, which they did Friday night, enhanced by Shapiro's beautifully written program notes.

They opened with a warm and energetic performance of Beethoven's early "String Quartet in F Major," biting into each short phrase in the beginning of the first movement and using pauses to enhance the tension.

Their rendition of the Adagio, based on "Romeo and Juliet," was sensitive and overwhelmingly sad; the Scherzo quick and subdued; the final movement both formidably virtuosic and expressive.

The rest of the program was devoted to two very different 20th-century composers and the number 5.

Philip Glass' lovely "String Quartet No. 5," in five movements, and Bela Bartok's monumental "String Quartet No. 5," also in five movements, could not be more distinct from each other.

The Glass work has many of the hallmarks of his film scores - the rocking bass, the pulsations and shimmer - but in this quartet there is much variety in dynamics, texture and color, and there is more drama, with sudden bursts of sound, interesting rhythms and some delicate, lyrical sections.

The Aeolus Quartet played it lovingly, meeting its demands of control and concentration.

Their performance of the Bartok "Quartet" was exceptional as well. With its intriguing Eastern European rhythms, its palindromic structure and its use of every special effect known to string players, this is one of the greatest achievements in quartet writing. It is also very difficult to play.

They not only tossed off every challenge with no apparent effort, but they infused it with their special brand of drama, taking the audience into the piece's unique world.

Susan L. Pena, Reading Eagle
Related Link
Back to List
Back to Top