Music Review: St. Petersburg String Quartet Debuts Maican's Quartet No. 3

Monday, February 23, 2009; 2:43 PM

The Dumbarton Concerts series has supported and encouraged local wunderkind Tudor Dominik Maican (b. 1988) in a big way, commissioning four chamber works from him, all premiered by world-class ensembles on its series.

On Saturday came the latest opus, Maican's String Quartet No. 3, which opened the concert by the St. Petersburg String Quartet.

Maican's Quartet No. 2, written while he was still in high school, showed impressive skill and promise. He has garnered dozens of awards and other commissions, and his works are being heard nationally and internationally. Quartet No. 3, however, does not reveal much in the way of ripening, and one must wonder whether the composer has retained his focus. Now a biochemistry major at Indiana University, Maican, in a program note, admits tossing the piece off in "maybe three weeks, after I went to college." Each of the three movements suffered from a lack of contrasting character and foursquare phrasing. Even the asymmetrical dance rhythms of the finale felt limp.

Perhaps this was just a slip along an upward path, but one hopes Maican is not taking his extensive support for granted.

The St. Petersburg Quartet filled out the program with chestnuts by Tchaikovsky and Borodin. The group plays with refinement, but a smallish tone. Violinist Alla Aranovskaya spun gossamer lines in the Tchaikovsky Andante Cantabile from String Quartet No. 1, but no one matched her propulsion and phrasing of the quartet's opening. The cellist's highly unorthodox technique led to crimped expression, and never did the group really let loose with a full, open-throated fortissimo.

-- Robert Battey

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