Review: More Olympian music-making at Quilcene's Olympic Music Festival
A rewarding afternoon of strings at the Olympic Music Festival in Quilcene, which has just two weekends left in its run.
Special to The Seattle Times
Olympic Music Festival2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 22, 7360 Center Road, Quilcene, Jefferson County (360-732-4800 or www.olympicmusicfestival.org).
Saturday was another rewarding afternoon at the Olympic Music Festival devoted to string quartets. The originally announced program order was changed so that Shostakovich's eighth quartet, instead of Beethoven's first, opened the proceedings.
This proved to be a good move, for the concentration and emotional intensity of the composer's best-known quartet benefited from the freshness of both players and listeners. The character of the Quartet No. 8 stems from its origins in a visit the composer made in 1960 to the still-war-devastated city of Dresden, in connection with a film project he was working on. Several musicians have subsequently tried their hand at arranging the quartet for string orchestra, but larger forces tend rather to diffuse than to enhance the impact of this uncompromisingly personal music.
As it was, violinists Andrea Segar and Megumi Stohs, violist Alan Iglitzin (the festival's founder and director), and cellist Jonathan Lewis pulled no punches in projecting the work's often terrifying rhetorical power. Segar and Lewis were both making their debuts at the Quilcene festival, and they established themselves at once as fully worthy partners for their already well-known colleagues.
For the rest of the program, Segar relinquished the first-violin chair to Stohs, who especially relished the virtuoso opportunities offered by Beethoven's F-major Quartet, Op. 18 No. 1. Composed not long after Beethoven had moved from his native Bonn to Vienna, this is a work whose first, third and fourth movements rank it as a full-fledged masterpiece. In the slow movement, on the other hand, the young composer bit off a good deal more than he was yet capable of effectively chewing.
In his masterly study of "The Beethoven Quartets," musicologist Joseph Kerman, while rightly saluting this rather self-consciously affecting movement's ambition and arduousness, puts an unerring finger on the whiff of sentimentality that undermines those qualities. It's hard to imagine Mozart ever marking a movement "Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato" — a great many Mozart movements are indeed full of tender warmth and passion, but he didn't feel the need to draw attention to characteristics that can and should speak for themselves. This particular marking was an early example of the expressive overkill that would lead, a century later, to the voluminously wordy instructions affixed to their scores by composers like Mahler; it's a good thing Beethoven soon grew out of any such tendency.
Still, performers have to respond to the instructions composers leave them, and our players on this occasion matched their actions unstintingly to Beethoven's words. The rest of the work, and Dvorak's genial E-flat-major Quartet, Op. 51, after intermission, drew equally compelling interpretations, executed with winning charm and technical brilliance.
There are just two weekends left for you to enjoy the 2010 Olympic Festival season. Mozart and Prokofiev share the Aug. 14-15 program with Schumann. Finally, on Aug. 21-22, an attractively eclectic program brings festival favorite Paul Hersh back as both pianist and violist, together with young clarinet virtuoso Teddy Abrams and violist Mara Gearman.
Bernard Jacobson: email@example.com
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.