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Henschel Quartett hits its stride in a rousing finale

The 2018 Flagler Museum Music Series came to a grand finale with a rousing performance by the Henschel Quartett.

A major difference between American and European ensembles is the importance the former place on a homogenous sound. Usually, the first violin rules, while the other instruments provide support. That approach provides for a more uninterrupted melodic flow, as well as more consistent tuning.

Meanwhile, European quartets place a prize on the individual voice of each player, thus providing for more contrapuntal and textural variety. To be sure, both approaches are valid and can lead to a great musical experience.

In the case of the German-based Henschel Quartett, that multi-layered approach worked best on its closing number, Claude Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10. Although it was written in 1893, the work easily qualifies as one of the summits of 20th century music. Indeed, it provided an alternative approach to countless composers of the next generations, who would be, otherwise, trapped in the Beethovenian way of dealing with form and motivic development.

The Henschel Quartett’s multi-voiced reading allowed for an almost “cubist” rendition of the masterwork. The first movement, often performed as an orchestral piece led by the first violin, sounded particularly edgy and modern. That was achieved in part thanks to a very incisive playing by cellist Mathias Beyer-Karlshøj.

In the andantino, all players had solo moments, but it was first violin Christoph Henschel’s varied tone palette that was the highlight.

After the closing piece, the ensemble received a well-deserved extended applause, which was obliged with an exciting rendition of Erwin Schulhoff’s Tarantella movement from his Five Pieces for String Quartet.

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