Facebook Twitter

Muir Quartet (minus one) still equals pleasing music

SHARE Muir Quartet (minus one) still equals pleasing music

The members of the Muir String Quartet, who named themselves after the 19th century naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir, gave a concert Tuesday evening in the appropriately rustic setting of Snow Park Lodge. The quartet is currently one member short (although in the midst of auditioning for a second violinist). The present makeup of the group (violinist Peter Zazofsky, violist Steven Ansell and cellist Michael Reynolds) allowed these musicians to present a concert of music they normally wouldn't play: Mozart, Duo in B flat major for violin and viola, K. 424; Zoltan Kodaly, Duo for violin and cello, op. 7; and Beethoven, String Trio in C minor, op. 9, no. 3.

There was also a refreshingly informal atmosphere to the concert with a good deal of banter between musicians and audience, along with a humorous incident that got the audience roaring with laughter.During the first movement of the Mozart, the music suddenly fell off the violinist's stand, but Zazofsky kept playing, although one had to wonder how long he could go on without the music.

Fortunately, violist Ansell burst out with the plea, "Somebody please pick up the music" without missing a beat of the music. And a member of the audience in the first row came to the rescue and the piece proceeded gloriously without a glitch until, as if on cue, the music once again fell off the stand just as the final chord was struck in the last movement. So much for impromptu dram-at-ics.

The program also contained a glaring error. Mozart somehow ended up with Alban Berg's birth and death dates (1885-1935) instead of the correct ones (1756-1791): 20th century classicism, the ultimate retro.

The concert, by and large, was extremely successful. The evening opened with the infamous Mozart duo. The music is expansive and involved and Mozart makes a strong attempt here to have both instruments on an equal footing, although the violin still dominates throughout. This piece was well-played, even though Zazofsky had a few problems with intonation.

The Kodaly was much more successful than the Mozart. The music is vigorous and has some very strong contrasts between intense, dramatic robust passages and lyrical interludes. Zazofsky and Reynolds emphasized these contrasts and gave a performance that was exciting to the extreme.

The Beethoven trio filled out the second half of the concert. Even though this is an early work, there isn't too much of Mozart and Haydn present in the music. Beethoven's later style is very much in evidence here in the dramatic, intense nature of the music, especially in the first movement. The Muir brought out this dramatic quality brilliantly and also brought out the intense contrasts that Beethoven creates here. Beethoven is a powerful composer in his mature works, and this early piece clearly shows the way Beethoven went, bridging classicism and romanticism.