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Cham at the Crossroads: The frenzy endures
Miro Quartet at Dumbarton Church
Saturday's recital by the Miro Quartet at Dumbarton Church started off with a jolt of electricity. Beethoven's early C-Minor String Quartet, Op. 18, No. 4, certainly provides opportunities for drama. But the Miro players paid particular attention to the work's dark undercurrents, digging into its jabbing accents with a thrilling fervor and taking a full-blooded, freely rhapsodic approach to the score's more restrained passages.
Those same qualities resurfaced after intermission, in white-hot traversals of movements from Mendelssohn and Schubert string quartets. Those two movements were actually part of an "a la carte menu" ballot that audience members were asked to vote on to create the second half of the program. Needless to say, traditional composers trumped the likes of Charles Ives and a newly commissioned work by Kevin Puts in the voters' eyes. But the schmaltzy arrangement of Kern's "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" was a guilty pleasure for "dessert."
The world premiere of Quartet No. 4, by 21-year-old Indiana University biochemistry student Tudor Dominik Maican -- a composing prodigy from the age of 5, with six symphonies and a raft of commissions under his belt -- was passionately performed by the Miro. Its patchwork of received ideas (think Tchaikovsky in sentimental mode, crossed with the overheated chromaticism of Schoenberg's "Verklarte Nacht") was hardly fresh-sounding. But the writing was unfailingly attractive, with well-turned melodic material and an engaging, all-pizzicato middle movement that would serve any quartet well as an encore piece.
-- Joe Banno