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Miró Quartet with Anton Nel

A concert which proved that eloquence survives in the age of the sound bite

Reviewed by Robert Faires, Fri., Jan. 27, 2012

Miró Quartet With Anton Nel

Bates Recital Hall
Jan. 20
Arts Review
Photo courtesy of Nathan Russell

Eloquence doesn't get much play in the age of the sound bite. We're so wired for speed and informality that in most communication, a bluntness of expression holds sway. But in Bates Recital Hall last Friday, the Miró Quartet and pianist Anton Nel proved there are still places where thoughts are composed and conveyed with craft, where time is allowed for a range of feelings to be explored and for fine distinctions to be drawn.

In the first movement of Edward Elgar's Quintet for Piano and Strings in A Minor, they alternated passages of dramatic conflict – a pursuit that escalated from the furtive shadowing of a stalker to a breathless chase, with the strings racing away from Nel's relentless, commanding piano – with others of wistful nostalgia: the piano and strings joined in a dance of yearning, twirling about a history shared and lost. A beautifully layered tension within and between these sections caught the pull between past and present, action and reflection, and it was sustained through the subsequent sections as Elgar wound through melancholic musings, sweeping emotional declarations, delicate reveries, and movements charged with purpose and resolve. Throughout, all five musicians remained remarkably attuned to one another, each instrument shifting from background to foreground like quicksilver, keeping you constantly aware of all five and how they were interwoven into the fabric of the music.

This craftsmanship and care was no less evident when the Miró Quartet performed alone. Playing the Samuel Barber String Quartet's familiar "Adagio" – yes, that heartwrenching music from Platoon – the ensemble refused to milk the elegiac score for easy pathos; its restraint kept the work's deeply felt grief honest, its emotion earned. Shifting from darkness to light with Antonín Dvoràk's "American" String Quartet, the four indulged their romantic sides, coloring the optimistic and animated score with fervent flourishes. They also demonstrated a deep sense of unity, ending the contemplative "Lento" on a long note that exquisitely faded into silence and moving the "Molto vivace" forward with the even, steady propulsion of a mechanical engine. With second violin William Fedkenheuer still in his first year, the Miró may be still refining its sound. But this first concert of 2012 showed the ensemble's voice to be considered, articulate, expressive, and nuanced – in short, eloquent.

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