Manchester Journal

Schubert, Shostakovich and Dvorak complete MMF's summer series
Joseph Schaaf - special to the Journal
Posted: 08/20/2009 11:41:45 AM EDT

Friday, August 21, 2009

The sixth concert of the Manchester Music Festival's Thursday evening series took place on Aug. 13. The performers were the Hyperion String Quartet which, as the program notes told us, "was formed in 1999 at the Eastman School of Music and is currently based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y." They opened the concert with a strong performance of the Schubert "Quartettsatz," a single movement which it is often thought was meant to be followed by more. There is the beginning of a second movement, but the one we have is such a distinctive little jewel, I wonder if Schubert might not have decided just to let it stand alone. It does so successfully in many chamber music concerts.

Next we heard the 1940 Quintet for piano and strings, Op. 57, by Dmitri Shostakovich. I well remember the excitement — long ago now — when friends and I got together to play through this new quintet — the music had just become available in the U.S. It is a moving piece, much of it introspective and with a wide range of mood and expression: beautiful writing for each instrument and beautifully played by the Hyperion Quartet with pianist Quentin Kim.

The next work we heard, a quintet by Antonin Dvorak, Op. 97 in E flat major, was for strings, not for piano and strings as I mistakenly wrote last week. Ariel Rudiakov joined the quartet as the second violist— a gorgeous part that begins the whole work. But then, every part is laden with rich melodic writing. I think no other composer is so filled with such an inexhaustible supply. My last violin teacher, William ("Fritz") Kroll, had his own quartet for many years. The Kroll Quartet, in residence at the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress, played some 30 concerts a year, and theirs was a pretty complete knowledge of the quartet literature. Out of all this, Kroll used to say he was most touched by Dvorak: "He always speaks straight from his heart to yours," Kroll said, and I must concur. The quintet we heard was overflowing with one great melody after another, and the audience was clearly as moved as I.

This was the last of the summer instrumental concerts, next week there will again be the annual concert, featuring four "Young Stars from the Metropolitan Opera" with their superb pianist, Caren Levine.