Amernet String Quartet is off to the races at Kennedy Center

October 28, 2012

There’s fast and then there’s really, really fast, which is how the Amernet String Quartet motored past the finish line of the Beethoven Op. 95 String Quartet in its Fortas Chamber Music concert at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater on Friday. It was a performance buoyed by the pull of irresistible momentum even in the second movement, in which cellist Jason Calloway’s beautifully weighted falling scale proceeded with stately majesty only to have the rising figure that followed in the rest of the strings almost trip over itself in its eagerness to move on. You had a feeling that the four musicians had decided to throw care to the winds and just go for it. That they pulled this off without sacrificing ensemble testifies to their common understanding of the music and how it should move.

The Amernet, based at the moment at Florida International University in Miami, has a whole fistful of recently written pieces in its repertoire, many of which the quartet commissioned, so it was a little disappointing that it decided not to bring any of them to this program. But a concert of Haydn, Beethoven and Franck is not to be sneezed at, and, when played as well and with as much attention to style and proportion as this one was, the disappointment was fleeting. You can only hope that they’ll include something a little more daring in their next visit.

The group adopted a warm, woody tone for their reading of Haydn’s Quartet in F minor, Op. 20, No. 5, and a richly lush, almost orchestral delivery for the Franck Piano Quintet. Their Haydn maintained an intimate, Baroque-like balance and transparency while their Franck ebbed and flowed in the indulgence of that work’s romanticism, and the players seemed equally at home in both of these very different idioms.

Pianist James Tocco was the ideal partner in the Franck. He was always a structurally reliable presence even when in the background, but, when he had the spotlight, his voice sang with a clarity and sense of line that cleansed Franck’s densely textured palate and gave direction to his meanderings.

Joan Reinthaler is a freelance writer.

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