Left Bank Quartet Gets Plenty of Bang for Its Bartok

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bartok's Fifth String Quartet capped a concert of 20th- and 21st-century music given Saturday by the Left Bank Concert Society at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. The Left Bank Quartet gave a comprehensive and electrifying performance of the Bartok (1934) and an emotionally focused rendering of Anton Webern's brilliantly aphoristic "Six Bagatelles" (1913). The evening also included recent works by Paul Moravec, Eric Ewazen and Steven Stucky.

This reviewer has never heard the ensemble sound more cohesive and inspired than in the Bartok. The musicians injected fire and ice into the music's driving, obsessively repeated melodic figures, while lucidly underlining its counterpoint. The Webern was no less concise or compelling.

Written for unlikely bedfellows -- oboe (Mark Hill), horn (James Ross) and harpsichord (Gerald Ranck) -- Stucky's elegant "Sonate en Forme de Preludes" topped the newer music with its dovetailing strata of sonorities, timbral sensitivity and often percussive rhythms. Ewazen's engaging "New England Portraits" coupled trumpet and piano in closely woven textures imaginatively alluding to the seasons. Moravec's "Quintessence" turned five trumpets into a chiming wind band with a remarkable assortment of colors and sonorities that made clear structural sense.

-- Cecelia Porter

© 2006 The Washington Post Company