In their third summer concert, the Fine Arts Quartet (violinists Ralph Evansand Efim Boico, violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez and cellist Robert Cohen) introduced new listening experiences from the most established of classical composers. The concert at the UW-Milwaukee Zelazo Center on Sunday evening opened with a fragment of Haydn’s last quartet – the incomplete String Quartet No 68. With the help of two guests, pianist Alon Goldsteinand string bass player Rachel Calin, the quartet offered a rarely played chamber transcription of Mozart’s popular 21st Piano Concerto. The concert closed with an ambitious quartet by a composer who rarely wrote chamber music – Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No 2.
Haydn lived to age 77. Just six years before he died, his creative energies nearly spent, he wrote his String Quartet No 68 in D minor, Op 103. It has been suggested that he set aside writing first and last movements because of the challenge to create a wholly integrated work. But he did complete two short inner movements – a pleasant andante and a cheerful minuet. Although lacking the complexity and often clever surprises of other quartets, each stand as single ideas with substantial interest. The lovely andante theme was introduced on Evan’s violin and played with little variation other than changes of pace. The minuet featured a catchy off-beat theme. Strong accents marked the rhythm but would have interrupted a dance. The quartet performed these attractive movements with tightly coordinated ensemble playing.
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