in: Reviews

July 22, 2013

Jupiter Qt. with Pianist Yakushev Play Maverick

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On Sunday, the Jupiter String Quartet blew me away at Maverick with the best performance of Haydn’s Quartet No. 59 in G minor, the “Rider” I’ve heard. Anyone who still thinks of Haydn’s music as polite sitting room stuff must be a rare or deaf bird. Jupiter has a big sound and its ensemble attacks, whether forte or piano, are not to be missed. I thought the second movement was overly dramatic, and the Menuet could have been a little dancier, but overall, WOW!

Brahms’s Quartet, No. 1 in C Minor, took us into realms Haydn would have loved. This big piece requires serious listening, and Jupiter brought the complex materials powerfully and clearly to the packed hall. The Ritardondo at the end of the first movement brought tears to my eyes. Jupiter has a special sense of musicality.

This season at Maverick is dedicated to Benjamin Britten’s birth centenary, and the rarely played Night Piece for solo Piano was performed by pianist Yakushev. It’s a curious effort; Chopin hovers over it, belied by the clear dissonances in the left hand. Trills make up an important part of the material, but the first one, near the beginning, jumps up fortissimo out of nowhere. This is careless composition, and Yakushev was inconsistent with the later trills, some very lengthy. I was relieved when this ended.

Frank Bridge was Britten’s early teacher and mentor, and his Quintet for Piano and Strings was the closer. Written in 1905. This is heavy duty dramatic romanticism with influences from Wagner and Brahms, the sort of sounds that Hollywood composers have used in the not too distant past. The performers were wonderful, but I didn’t enjoy the piece. The first movement was a bore, leaping from crescendo to decrescendo, just like sheep jumping over that fence. The second movement was my favorite, with excellent compositional material and textures. The last movement, “Allegro Energico” was, simply put, a beautiful performance of similar materials and style to the first. I could have lived without it.

Pianist Ilya Yakushev also performed at Maverick’s Young Person’s concert on Saturday morning. I haven’t attended those events before, and since Yakushev is world class, I was interested in exploring that scene. It was marvelous. The youngsters were ‘multitasking’, as usual, and their parents were kvelling with affection. Alexander Platt was straight man as Ilya’s informed the audience what it takes to be a musician, what the piano can do, how the love of music increases over time. Yakushev played a Chopin nocturne and a prelude by Rachmaninoff as quite different examples of pianism. I prefer that C-sharp nocturne a little slower, but the important thing was the ‘fertilizing’ of these children with music, our culture, our life. These fun events are free for youngsters, and the $5 charged to adults is returned as a $5 discount for the Sunday series. Go, it’ll make you a better person.

Jay Wenk studied Composition at Juilliard on the GI Bill, for five years,  learning was that he was a lousy composer, but his love for and interest in music have never diminished.

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