Chiara Quartet, Raising Hopes
The award-winning Chiara String Quartet made its Washington debut Friday at the Kreeger Museum in works of Mozart, Zhou Long and Brahms. This ambitious group (trained at Juilliard and Aspen) has begun a residency at the University of Nebraska and founded its own music festival in South Dakota.
The Chiara is only a few years into its career, and it would be churlish to compare it to the great quartets of our time. Each young artist marries a nimble technique to eager-to-please intensity and unhackneyed joy. If they continue to study and develop together, they may well attain the depth and perspicacity we hear from the "name" groups. In particular, they will need to expand their dynamic range and command of large structures.
In the introduction of the Mozart "Dissonance" Quartet, they began with an intriguing "white" tone color but gave it up after a few bars (before the most radical harmonies had passed). In the ensuing Allegro, frequently the only difference between piano and forte dynamics was in body language. In the Brahms Op. 67 quartet, the leader's lack of bloom in her upper register marred otherwise-enjoyable textures, and the group was not quite up to the fearsome intonation challenges of the work's closing pages. The Zhou Long piece ("Song of the Ch'in") was a study in limpid, perfumed Asian textures, played with sympathy and a sense of fun. Mixed results overall, then, but this is an attractive, talented group that shows much promise.
-- Robert Battey