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Henschel Quartet Offers Necessary Balance In Music, Life

We’re all looking for balance in our lives.
And we found it the other night at the Music Guild concert at Daniel Recital Hall. The Henschel Quartet is a wonderfully balanced ensemble
Each player knows his or her role and fulfills it expertly. Founded by three members of the same family, that’s to be expected. But one of the three has left the group, leaving first violinist Christoph and violist Monika. Daniel Bell replaced second violinist Markus a couple of years ago. Cellist Mathias Beyer-Karlshøj has been there from the beginning, providing support.

No one dominates, not even Christoph. His silvery tone is perfectly capable of carrying the big moments, but he also can step back and let others take the spotlight, depending on the needs of the music. It’s extremely satisfying to witness this group in action, the very model of a collaborative ensemble, playing and breathing as one with each expressive turn.

The program was a nicely balanced one, too. Late Mozart, K. 589, got things started off in a Classical vein. Here the Henschels played it cool and restrained, highlighting the instrumental byplay while letting the music speak for itself.

There’s a piece by Beethoven called the “Kreutzer” sonata, after its benefactor. And the piece plays a significant role in a short novel by Leo Tolstoy, “The Kreutzer Sonata.” In turn, Czech composer Leoš Janáček’s Quartet No. 1 is subtitled “Kreutzer Sonata” after the Tolstoy work. Got that?

The quartet, while not following the dramatic narrative of the story, reflects all of the passion and emotions of Tolstoy’s steamy tale of guilt, betrayal, sex and violence. A kaleidoscopic whirlwind, the piece changes tempo, mood and sonority multiple times. The Henschels did great work here, bringing every detail to the fore while propelling the momentum inexorably onward.

Like Rodolphe Kreutzer, Count Andreas Rasoumowsky was one of Beethoven’s benefactors who enjoys posthumous fame mainly by having a work dedicated to him. The Rasoumowsky Quartets, Op. 59, are mid-period Beethoven at his finest, deeper and more profound than the early pieces and more accessible than the Olympian late works. No. 1, as played by the Henschel Quartet, is a robust, humorous masterpiece, the finale featuring a number of false endings. I could be wrong, but I swear the players were having fun with this one.

The glory of the Henschels, in addition to their superior playing and tight ensemble, is that they played three very different pieces and did full justice to each and all. Cool and classical Mozart, spiky and aggressive Janáček, and muscular Beethoven all made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening of chamber music, something we have come to expect from The Music Guild.

Thursday, March 19, 2015, By Jim Ruggirello, Gazette Columnist


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