August 2, 2015
“There’s no such thing as perfection” may be a valid observation, but on Sunday afternoon a full house at Music Mountain was offered proof to the contrary. The Penderecki Quartet joined by Matt Haimovitz were as near perfect in concert as this reviewer has heard in many a year.
It started with Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor that Matt played in soft dulcet tones modulated to round out the sharp edges one sometimes hears in this piece. One had the impression he was playing for us, not for a muse nor for an imagined composer, but for us. The stately passages made us feel in the presence of majesty; he revealed the music as if he was liberating it; it floated across the sound waves as if it has always existed – he was just the instrument that sent it on its way with care and affection. The impression was one of exquisite lightness. This was not the playing of some ancient piece but the creation of a gem that shone its many facets with brilliance.
Beethoven’s String Quartet Opus 131 of 1825 was placed in a position of honor when played by the Penderecki Quartet. We heard an understanding of the music that made the audience happy, indeed ecstatic. From the haunting opening line played by a single violin to the finale, we were captivated, transported and transfixed; we were treated to a musical feast; in the contemplation of life itself we were led to a sunny plain, a place of magical existence. A throaty soft cello played by Katie Schlaikjeer opened a new dimension. The understanding the musicians brought to this important piece was appreciated by the audience. It was a sharing. The best kind of music-making and listening. The first violin was Jeremy Bell; Jerzy Kaplanek was second; violist Christine Vlajk and cellist Katie Schlaikjer are the members of the quartet.
Schubert’s Cello Quintet in C Major with Matt Haimovitz taking the second cello chair produced as fine a performance as could be imagined. Light, intelligent and patient. Perhaps a bit slow, we heard every nuance, every subject aptly explored. There was plenty of mournfulness, as it was composed when Schubert presumably knew he was dying. We heard funereal solemnity tempered by lyrical interludes of sheer glory. The sun was shinning through the dark clouds that would soon close over all. A difficult piece beautifully played.