The award-winning Miami String Quartet performed a variety of contemporary and Romantic pieces on Friday night at the Clarice Center for Performing Arts. The group ended the show in collaboration with the University of Maryland School of Music graduate string quartet Excelsa after two days of working with UMD chamber groups.
The group, which was founded 20 years ago, includes Benny Lim on first violin, Scott Lee on viola, Cathy Meng Robinson on second violin, and Keith Robinson on cello.
The Miami String Quartet showcased its virtuosity in playing a 2008 composition by Joan Tower titled Angels (String Quartet No. 4). Keith Robinson, cellist, and founding member of the group, explained that the work is dedicated to the “angels” who helped nurse Tower’s brother back to health after suffering a heart attack. Each musician evoked the meaning of the work deeply as they portrayed the chaos of an attack with loud dissonance, followed by the motif of a constant screech-like glissando, causing unease and tension throughout the piece. Tension temporarily eased with a legato movement that showcased the rich, lower timbres of each instrument. The triumphant major chord in the end brought the emotional roller coaster to resolve.
Taking on any work by Dmitri Shostakovich is no small feat, but the Miami String Quartet performed the String Quartet No. 9 with ease. Each movement seemed to feature new textures and instrumental effects from tapping and pizzicato to glissandos.
The University of Maryland School of Music graduate string quartet Excelsa joined the Miami String Quartet on stage for a final octet. Taking on Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet, Op. 20, the larger ensemble worked together with precision and expressiveness. First violinist Benny Kim led the entire ensemble with confidence, communicating with each member in body language and in music. I would have liked to hear more from the members of both ensembles about the process they went through during their two-day collaboration, especially since they seemed so comfortable performing together on stage.
Running Time: One hour and forty minutes, including one intermission.
The Miami String Quartet played for one-night-only on Friday, October 4, 2013 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center – at the intersection of Stadium Drive and Route 193 at University of Maryland, in College Park, MD. For upcoming events, please check their calendar of events.
The Miami String Quartet website.