Nobody seemed quite sure how to explain the fact that the Cavani String Quartet, which performed the season-ending Maverick Concert on Sept. 12, hadn’t played at Maverick for about 20 years. Welcome back!
The concert opened with an adventurous traversal of Beethoven’s last String Quartet, in F, Op. 135. The ensemble’s sound, aside from occasional shrillness from the first violin, was conspicuously rich even sometimes to the point of being bass-heavy. The playing sounded very spontaneous, with particularly wide dynamics. The Vivace even sounded rough at times, which is not a complaint. Good Beethoven playing can certainly turn raucous sometimes. The tempo of the slow movement felt a bit too adventurous, as though the ensemble was attempting to play the music as slowly as possible. The opening of the finale also went somewhat over the top, yet not without awesomeness. This take on Op.135 certainly proved stimulating.
Earlier this season we heard two works by Rhinebeck composer Daron Hagen. Maverick’s Music Director Alexander Platt promised us that the piece of Hagen’s on this Sunday’s concert wouldn’t sound anything like the others, and it certainly didn’t. “Genji” is scored for koto and string quartet. (It also exists in a version for koto and string orchestra.) The koto player was the very impressive Yumi Kurosawa, who played with both virtuosity and sensitivity. The first movement (“Cicada Shell”) sounded to me like “up and down the pentatonic scale,” but the remaining four movements were more imaginative and “Falling Flowers” was quite pretty. Overall an intriguing experience.
Much as I love Dvořák, I was sorry to have the season conclude with his “American” Quartet, Op. 96. For a long time, it was the only quartet by that composer we ever got to hear. In recent years Maverick has been offering us a wider range of Dvořák, so maybe it was time for the “American” again. But it’s nevertheless too bad we didn’t hear one of the others. At least half of Dvořák’s 14 string quartets deserve to be in the permanent repertoire. The Cavani Quartet gave us a fine, idiomatic and enjoyable performance, but next time, friends, please play another one for us.
My last review of the 2021 season cannot conclude without conveying my pleasure at the success of the season. Put together under difficult circumstances in trying times, the 2021 Maverick Concerts season was thoroughly worthy of this institution’s best.
Leslie Gerber, who lives in Woodstock, New York, has been reviewing professionally since 1966, for such venues as Performance Today, Fanfare, and Amazon.com. He also publishes the Parnassus Records label.