The Escher String Quartet returned to the Maverick Concert Hall on another sublime Sunday afternoon in Woodstock. In Haydn’s String Quartet in G Major, Op. 77, No. 1, an imperishable work from late in Papa’s career, the Eschers captured and kept our attention from the very start. A stalwart march vigorously heralded an abundance of perfect ensemble playing — light-hearted, serene —a sound that was both abounding and meticulous, in a perfect reading of a perfect piece. The first violinist, Adam Barnett-Hart, shone through — his creaminess as winsome as his upper-register high-wire act.
Russell Platt, twin brother of Maverick’s music director, Alexander Platt, served as the classical music editor of the New Yorker’s Goings On About Town from 2000 until 2018 when he joined the Vanderbilt faculty. His Mountain Interval takes inspiration from the poetry of Robert Frost and pays homage, in the architecture of its seven connected movements, to Beethoven’s great C-sharp minor quartet.
The Escher Quartet has taken possession of Mountain Interval, playing with ineffable grace, focus, and largesse. Platt’s work embodies a sonority that a listener thinks of as “post-tonal.” Quick episodes of tonal harmony, and fragmentary dissonant gestures gather force to and carry us, with rhythm and texture and changes of register, to a gratifying and inevitable-feeling conclusion. The movements of Platt’s Mountain Interval take their titles from Robert Frost’s collection of the same name, which came out, coincidentally, in 1916, the year that Maverick visionary Hervey White founded the Maverick. The Borromeo premiered the work at Maverick’s centenary celebration in 2016.
A concert at Maverick is like a gift from the muses. The homespun hall of tree-limbs and site-milled wood is resonant throughout; the clear and unblemished sound captures the full range of volume and sonority. There are no bad seats at the Maverick; even outdoors, listeners can inhabit the sound and make it their own. The surrounding woodland kept silent on Sunday. As the summer weeks tick by and the days begin imperceptibly to shorten, the birds begin their end-of-day choruses earlier and earlier, and the result is a delight of music and woodland sounds.
The Eschers gave the second half over to the glories and plaintive passions of Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 3 in E-flat Minor, Op. 30, taking us through a dark emotional journey with sweeping eloquence. A quicksilver scherzo, and a resolutely upbeat ending, became a cortege of grief-stricken calm at the beating heart of the work in the third movement, delivered unerring sensibility and flawless technique.
In a traditional expression of pounding and stamping of feet upon the sonorous wooden floor of the hall, the audience conveyed its delight.