Review: The Escher String Quartet Chamber Music at The Barns at Wolf Trap

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While quartets abound, that quality of coming together and making four musicians truly come together through music is still a difficult task to achieve. This is where The Escher String Quartet stands out. The four musicians make it look easy, even when playing complicated pieces, and they seem to have a good time at that; transmitting not only the joy of their music but that ease back to the audience, the very quality that makes live music good for the soul.

The Escher String Quartet. Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.

Last night the quartet played at the The Barns at Wolf Trap with an inventive program that kicked off with Mendelssohn String Quartet in F minor, Op. 80 No. 6. The dynamic piece displayed the range of the quarter, which was truly exceptional. In fact, the quartet is so familiar with Mendelssohn, they had some CDs for sale with recordings from that composer.

During the first half of the performance, the quartet also played Bartok’s String Quartet No. 3 Sz. 85, which was the stand out piece of the night. Bartok’s complex music that almost sounds like several different languages spoken at the same time was a fitting piece for the quartet, which took its name inspired by graphic artist M.C. Escher. The complexity of the designs by M.C. Escher where graphics and lines come together to make infinite pieces that follow one another to make a whole that can be different things depending on one’s perspective is similar to how the quartet approach music, with a series of sounds that come together to make something greater than its individual components that appeals from different perspectives. And it was indeed the Bartok piece that allowed the Escher String Quartet to showcase their ability to come together in a powerful way.

After the Bartok piece it was time for an intermission, which included an open-ended Q&A period with the musicians, who were charming and accommodating. One of the best questions asked them whether they sometimes decide to play random notes within one of the more complicated pieces just to find out whether anyone in the audience will notice. The answer, of course, was no, but they seemed tempted. Although there was an admission to perhaps take license with the work of living composers, a mischievous inside joke.

Finally, the program closed with Beethoven’s String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59 No. 2, a wonderfully delightful piece. The intimate space at The Barns soared with the melodic work, which at times sought harmonious disruption keeping the piece interesting yet beautiful. Beethoven’s piece marked a perfect ending for a brilliant program that included adventurous sounds, as well as crowd-pleasing elements. After the concert, the audience was invited to an after-concert reception that featured a wonderful assortment of desserts and mingling with the young musicians; a sweet ending for a memorable night.

Running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes, with a 10-minute intermission.

The Escher String Quartet Chamber Music at The Barns at Wolf Trap was a one-night only performance on Friday, March 3, 2017, at The Barns at Wolf Trap – 1645 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For tickets or more information visit their calendar of events.

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