Lydia Johnson Dance will present their annual New York season from March 10th - 12th, 2016, at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, 405 West 55th Street in Manhattan.
The program will feature the world premiere of a work set to new versions of jazz classics, as well as three recent danceworks from the Company's repertory:Night of the Flying Horses, Giving Way, and What Counts.
Above, the players of the Miró Quartet: Joshua Gindele, Daniel Ching, William Fedkenheuer, and John Largess
Friday February 5th, 2016 - Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center are in the midst of a festival of Beethoven string quartets, being performed in six programs and played by five different ensembles. I'm only able to attend two of the six performances; tonight was the first of these, with the Miró Quartet playing the three "Razumovsky" quartets, opus 59. The works carry the name of the man who commissioned them in 1806: Count Andreas Razumovsky, then the Russian ambassador to Vienna.
Early performances of these quartets drew a mixed response; in 1807, one critic wrote: "Three new, very long and difficult Beethoven string quartets…are attracting the attention of all connoisseurs. The conception is profound and the construction excellent, but they are not easily comprehended."
As with so many masterworks (whether in music, art, literature, or dance) that were misunderstood or under-valued when they first manifested themselves, the "Razumovsky" quartets have become cherished favorites of audiences and players alike. This quote in the Playbill from the Miró Quartet's superb violist John Largess really moved me: "Truly, this is music written by one to inspire all - despite sufferings and setbacks - to great deeds: to be true to your individual self and to the promise within."
Alice Tully Hall was packed to the rafters tonight; added rows of seating had been installed, and as the audience quietly filed in, I experienced the uncanny feeling of being in church. When the four handsome musicians took their places, a sense of anticipation welled up. The next two hours were simply transportive.
I have to admit, I've never been a great devotee of Beethoven. But in recent years, I have found his music increasingly pleasing and - moreover - meaningful. Tonight, in particular, the first of the three "Razumovsky" quartets evoked such a profound emotional response from me, partly from the music itself but also - I think even more so - from the playing of it.
The players of the Miró have the kind of gorgeously integrated sound that musicians who have played together for years can achieve, yet throughout the concert their individual voices also spoke clearly and poetically. Each produces a sound of immediate appeal; in blending, their unusually evocative dynamic acuity and their telepathic sense of one another makes for a spellbinding experience.
Joshua Gindele's deep-violet cello sound launched the evening, the theme taken up by Daniel Ching's violin: Mr. Ching has the enviable gift of sustaining sweetness of tone in the highest register. William Fedkenheuer's violin (all evening) entwined so superbly with the other voices, whilst the dusty-rose contralto of John Largess's viola stood out even in the densest passages.
By the time the Adagio of the first quartet was reached, I felt I was in another world. The playing was so poignant: every note meant something, each voice reaching deeper and deeper into the realm of the spiritual. The stress and the feelings of hopelessness which can come to fill our daily lives was washed clean by the pure beauty of what we were hearing. This is the power of great music, played by great musicians.
A spectacular, sustained trill from Mr. Ching marked the transition to the climactic Thème russe where the striking virtuosity of each player combined in a whirlwind of musical magic. By this point, I was feeling elated. Strangely - and this has sometimes happened to be before at dance, operatic, or symphonic performances - part of me wanted to leave and carry this perfect performance away with me.
But good sense prevailed, and after the interval, the same remarkably high level of musicianship was maintained. The first movement of the second (E-minor) quartet was filled with subtle nuance; the opening of the ensuing Adagio molto had a paradoxical mixture of calm and passion, and this led to some exquisitely expressive playing from Mr. Ching. In an odd moment of musical déjà vu, a passionate downward rush of notes gave me momentary pause: where have I heard this before? Ah, the Suicidio from LA GIOCONDA...might Ponchielli have done a bit of borrowing?
No time to ponder that, as the music moved onward; a last downhill progression is passed from violin to violin2 to viola, to cello as the movement comes to an end. A dance-like Allegretto is next, and Beethoven keeps us dancing with sprightly vigor for the concluding Presto. Again, Mr. Ching dazzles us. And suddenly, what had seemed rather stately in its swiftness swings into double-time for a terrific finish.
For the third quartet, I stopped taking notes. What more could be said anyway? I wanted to just let the music happen. And so, as it progressed, I found myself thoroughly immersed in both the technical and emotive qualities of the playing. I was feeling so very thankful to have been there to experience these four wonderful artists performing in a state of grace. You can't ask more of music, or of musicians. As Mr. Largess reeled of the high-speed opening passage of the final Allegro molto, all was light and reassurance.
The concerts presented by Chamber Music Society continue to inspire and to provide a tonic for the weary soul. After a concert like this evening's, I feel certain we don't need drugs, drink, or religion; we just need great music.
I was touched by the dedicatory paragraph in tonight's Playbill:
"It is with love and a profound sense of gratitude that we dedicate The Beethoven Cycle to the memory of our extraordinary friend Jane Kitselman." How I wish I could have met this patroness of the arts: I feel certain we are kindred spirits.
On a final note, another quote from John Largess's program note:
"Reportedly, at the first performance of the Quartet in F-minor, Beethoven's audience laughed and was convinced that he was playing a trick on them..."Surely you do not consider this music?" asked one bemused listener. "Not for you," replied the confident composer, "but for a later age."