Last night, we revisited the beautiful St. John’s Church in Jamaica Plain, situated on the high ground of Roanoke Avenue and Revere Street, with a sweeping view of Boston and its beautiful surrounding homes and churches. It’s surely one of JP’s secret hidden jewels. The event was part of JP Concerts, and featured the Quatour Zaïde — visiting from Paris (France, not TX or ME). The plucky and intrepid concert series itself has a fine, informative website so nothing further need be said, except that it showcases noteworthy young artists in wonderful programs. We have previously observed that classical music lovers not venturing thither suffer their own loss thereby.
The QZ (as they refer to themselves) consists of four young French ladies. They are visiting Boston in an exchange program (established in 2003), co-sponsored on the French side by ProQuartet-European Center for Chamber Music (ProQuartet-CEMC) and on ours by New England Conservatory (NEC).
We were tempted to steep in winter reverie, home by the fire, we must confess, but did eventually resolve to venture forth, knowing that the pianist Yannick Rafalimanana was joining the group for Cesar Franck’s Quintet in F Minor. Mr. Rafalimanana is a young Madagascar-born Frenchman currently studying at NEC, where he has generated quite a buzz among his peers as a talent to watch, to enlist, or just plain fear.
So it was really by chance that we stumbled upon the other featured artists, namely the quartet. QZ appeared first with Sérénade Italienne by Hugo Wolf and then Haydn’s Quartet Op. 50, No.1. We want to remark first of all, that QZ has an extremely personable and attractive stage presence. Entering in coordinated but understated black pants suits and pumps, they immediately inject a note of Parisian chic. And, let’s face it, as professional managers understand only too well, stage presence and appearance do matter, even beyond the subliminal. The scuffed shoes of our own young compatriot artists, to our thinking at least, always occasion the pang of a Maalox moment.
As for the performances, these fine players performed their italiànizing German, their Esterházying Haydn and their germanizing Frenchman with utter refinement and assurance. Their playing is vigorous and robust, with tense vital rhythm and flawless intonation.
The Wolf was all light and lovely lyricism. The Haydn was given all of that understated elegance Haydn deserves. The performance of the Franck quartet, known somewhat as a dark brooder, projected its seething, troubled passion, its lyricism as well as its evident tragic intent (most prominent in the first movement). The ensemble in the Franck was flawless. Because QZ had arrived only two days before and was consumed with activities at NEC, this formidable work was prepared in one rehearsal, we were astonished to learn, by Yannick and his Landsmen.
The small audience, justly chagrined by its modest size, did everything possible to demonstrate its tremendous appreciation of the artistry on display.
The primary message, then, of this brief post is to urge the rest of you to hear the wonderful playing of Quatour Zaïde at Jordan Hall on January 26 at 8PM, where they perform Mozart K.590, the Italian Serenade of Hugo Wolf (again), and Beethoven Opus 131. Or, faute de mieux, catch them at the French Cultural Center 53 Marlborough Street, Boston, on January 24, at 6:30 PM, where they play the Mozart and then Debussy, Quartet Op. 10.