Dali Quartet Gives Outstanding Performance for the American Music Festival

The American Music Festival is a concert series in Morehead City that always features very outstanding performers and selections. This concern was no exception. Following a few remarks by festival artistic director Oskar Espina Ruiz (he had the uncommon good sense to say, "I've talked enough,") the Dali Quartet took the stage and dove right in to the evening's program with a scintillatingly good performance of Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga's String Quartet No. 1 in D minor of 1824. De Arriaga died a few days short of his twentieth birthday. First violinist Ari Isaacman-Beck, in his brief remarks, speculated about what might have been produced if de Arriaga had lived longer.

The quartet's members are Isaacman-Beck; Carlos Rubio, second violin; Adriana Linares, viola; and Jesús Morales, cello. The sound technician was not named in the program, but was highly visible. His presence was distracting – given the amount of cable he kept schlepping around right up to the beginning of the performance, he could easily have been placed in a less-conspicuous position. Meanwhile, it was great to see, during intermission and after the performance, how eagerly the young people present were welcomed backstage.

The first movement of the de Arriaga, Allegro, was very vigorous, with powerful but well-balanced viola tone. The Adagio con espressione (II) featured Isaacman-Beck; he played some exquisite passages. There were also some wonderful upward burbling passages for cello that were charming. The Menuetto (Allegro) (III) was very fast, at first blistering, then tranquil, then blistering again and so in alternatim. The movement was expectedly formulaic; the unexpectedly beautiful Adagio-Allegretto was very, very lovely, like a lullaby on speed. There was some lovely trio playing in this final movement as well, places where the first violin fell silent and it was obvious that the musical strengths of this group were very equally divided.

My seat in about the fifth pew was halfway to the back and yet I could see perfectly the gyrations of Isaacman-Beck and even hear the sighs of the musicians; this is a perfect size of room for a quartet and even almost full, as it was for this concert, the acoustics are lively and clear.

The second selection was the Tango Ballet of 1956 by Astor Piazzolla. Comparisons to Gershwin are immediate; then the composition takes a different direction and more styles are obvious. There is some program music, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, for example, where the pictures are only clear after the scenes are given out and we can say, ah, yes, there's the thunderstorm. Others, like the Tango Ballet, paint the pictures without needing the words, through Latin rhythms and melodies and evocation of witches and more. The program lists six parts; the Dali Quartet played the piece pretty much as one, which was very effective.

Mozart had only been dead fifteen years and Haydn was still alive when Beethoven wrote his Rasumovsky Quartets; they must have seemed alien and shocking at the time, but now are mainstream Beethoven canon. The first movement of Opus 59/3, No. 9 in C opens with a snippet of fugue and off it goes. Further on, there are several long themes repeated by each of the top three voices, that gave the opportunity for Rubio and especially Linares to show that they were just as nimble as Isaacman-Beck. The performance had relentless drive. The second movement, Andante con moto quasi allegretto, was somewhat more relaxed, but was still solidly, tightly mannered playing, with every motion considered in a very serious salon style. In the Menuette (grazioso) Beethoven plays a game of "Hide the Menuet." And finally, in the Allegro molto, off we go, molto molto, with the viola leading the fugal chase, again played with great drive but equal clarity.

Not a full house, but almost, and approval was universal with a standing ovation.

Richard Parsons, Cultural Voice of North Carolina (CVNC)
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