Classical Music Guide - Friday, July 20, 2018 - Written by Donald Isler

Alon Goldstein and the Fine Arts Quartet with Andrew Sommer, Bass

Alon Goldstein and the Fine Arts Quartet (Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, Violins, Gil Sharon, Viola, Niklas Schmidt, Cello) with Andrew Sommer, Bass

20th International Keyboard Institute and Festival at Hunter College
July 19th, 2018

Mozart: String Quartet in C Major, K 465 - "Dissonant"
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466 - arr. I. Lachner
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K, 467 - arr. I. Lachner

My first (facetious) thought about this concert was: Who let a string quartet onto the stage at IKIF unescorted by a pianist? (!)

My second was: How great it is to hear what Mozart produced in just these three consecutive Köchel numbers?!

And the third was: I wish that people who don't appreciate the greatness of Mozart had heard this program. It might have changed their minds!

The Fine Arts Quartet is a very good group, and it was, indeed, a pleasure to hear a string quartet amidst all the piano repertoire we've been hearing at Hunter College lately. Their ensemble is excellent, and while they take vigorous tempi when appropriate, they don't play excessively fast just to show off. The first movement started with the pulsating, and, indeed, dissonant adagio, followed by the allegro in which the various voices played beautifully off each other. The lovely andante movement was followed by the vigorous C Major minuet movement, which almost seemed to be in the spirit of a Beethoven scherzo movement. The C Minor trio section of that movement was appropriately brusquely played, and one noted the effect of the sforzando markings. The sunny fourth movement, which, like the first movement, is in sonata-allegro form, showed both the charm and sophistication of Mozart's writing. Particularly effective was the way they glided into the second theme both times, first into E-Flat Major, and later, in the recap, into A-Flat Major, and how they played the delightful coda.

Before performing the two concerti Alon Goldstein spoke briefly about arrangements, and how they won't work with the music of some composers (like Chopin on other than the piano). He mentioned that in these transcriptions Lachner left the piano parts exactly as Mozart wrote them, and incorporated the wind parts into the strings. He added that in the first movement of the D Minor Concerto he would play Beethoven's cadenza but in the last movement, and in the first and last movements of the other concerto he would play his own.

So, what does one make of these arrangements? Clearly they are a "different sort of animal" from the original, though the piano parts are unaltered. In one sense, the effect was more like hearing chamber music than a concerto, where one sometimes hears soloist VERSUS orchestra (though that can occasionally get out of hand!) The piano was situated behind the ensemble (the Quartet plus Mr. Sommer) instead of in front of it, as with an orchestra. And the dynamic of having one person playing each part also was a change. Occasionally one did miss the unique sound of the wind instruments, but not too often. So, altogether, though quite different from the original works with orchestra, the transcriptions were effective and enjoyable. And the balance between the strings and Mr. Goldstein was well handled.

In the first movement of the D Minor Concerto one heard interesting and expressive, though never eccentric ideas in the piano part, such as when it went into a G Minor section. There was a "threatening" leadup to the cadenza, which had imaginative pauses and tempo shifts. In the second movement Mr. Goldstein beautifully spun the melodies against the accompaniment of the others. Also noteworthy was the turbulent G Minor section, and the way they melted back into the B-Flat Major theme. The last movement was lively and dramatic. In addition to the ingenious cadenza at the end of the movement, Mr. Goldstein added one earlier on.

In the first movement of the C Major Concerto there was a wonderful transition into the G Major second theme. The E Minor theme was sorrowfully beautiful. Mr. Goldstein’s cadenza at the end of the movement was witty, briefly leading into what sounded like the beginning of a nocturne in A-Flat Major, and then, momentarily, suggesting the theme of the first movement of Beethoven's C Minor Concerto. The slow movement had a lovely, natural flow and the melodies were eloquently played. Mr. Goldstein added yet another cadenza at the beginning of the finale, which got that delightful movement off to a fine start.

The audience reaction at the end was understandably enthusiastic.

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