A Memorable Stop in Fessenden Ensemble's Musical Travelogue

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Fessenden Ensemble's performance at St. Columba's Episcopal Church Tuesday was a highlight of the musical season. In a program representing Hungary and England, it was the sixth concert in their eight-part series "A Musical Travelogue" through 11 European countries. The 16-player ensemble varies in size and instrumental makeup from concert to concert.

On Tuesday a string quartet (violinists Carole Tafoya-Evans and Heather Le Doux Green, violist Jennifer Mondie and cellist Mark Evans) opened with Bartok's String Quartet No. 2, Op. 17, in a performance as ravishing as the music itself. Pianist Cecilia Cho joined the group for an equally beautiful account of Elgar's turbulent Quintet in A Minor, Op. 84.

Both works were adventurous undertakings, but in different ways. In the rarified atmosphere of the Bartok, the musicians dove powerfully into its reflective lyricism, tersely interwoven textures and grinding dissonances. And they missed none of the Allegro's folk-dance vigor or the eerie resonance of open and stopped strings played simultaneously.

Inclining toward more spontaneity, the Elgar was as multidimensional in its sonorous effect as the Bartok.

The Fessenden played the quintet with ample freedom in tempos, dashes of resonant solos (as in the cello) and savory touches of Brahms's eastern European melodic, rhythmic and harmonic inclinations.

-- Cecelia Porter

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