Review: Intimacy characterizes series closer

An all string quartet program filled the final concert of this season’s Lamar Family Chamber Series.

Violinists Borislava Iltcheva and Aaron Farrell, violist Jennifer Cassin and cellist Dan Cassin, all members of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, performed works by Ludwig Van Beethoven and Alexander Borodin Wednesday night in the Manship Theatre.

While the theater didn’t add in any helpful resonance to the bowed string instruments, its intimacy was such that all of the instruments were heard with appreciation-enhancing clarity. The closeness of the stage to the venue’s seats, too, made the concert as visually clear as it was audibly clear.

Beethoven published his String Quartet No. 6 in B-flat, Op. 18, in 1801. It contains hints of the Beethoven to come, the composer who would create stirring symphonic masterworks of enduring popularity.

Even so, the quartet’s first movement is nothing exceptional. Marked allegro con brio, and played with fitting energy by the musicians, the movement is cheerful music created by the relatively young Beethoven, a composer still working in the classical format of such predecessors as Mozart and Hadyn.

But Beethoven did play with convention by scoring sudden, unexpected silences, or rests, in Quartet No. 6. Of course, he would use rests more effectively, and famously, in later works. But in Wednesday’s performance of Quartet No. 6, the rests, through no fault of the performers, had the sound of a still-developing composer flapping his wings.

String Quartet No. 6’s second movement, a graceful adagio, offered a darker contrast to the happy opening movement. At the Manship Theatre, it was also an especially good opportunity to appreciate the sonorous blend of bowed string instruments performed by four local pros.

The third movement, a scherzo, was more recognizably Beethovenian than previous movements. Violinist Iltcheva took full advantage of some almost concerto-level lines in this especially active section of the piece.

The volatility and passion that the later Beethoven is noted for were also present in the Quartet No. 6’s concluding movement. A movement of many moods, it shifts from adagio to allegretto to full-throttle allegro. Following a solemn opening, too, the musicians played striking soft-loud contrasts and engaging crescendos.

A composer of the Russian Romantic school, Borodin wrote his charming String Quartet No. 2 in D major in 1881. It’s thought to be a love letter to his wife, Ekaterina. The composer scores the work in lush, loving style, so much so that the music sounds as if more than four players are performing it.

Borodin gives the first violin and cello special attention, especially in the opening movement. The quartet’s tuneful second movement contains one of chamber music’s most recognizable melodies.

The score’s innate happiness combined with the musicians’ performance helped make Borodin’s quartet an ideal choice for this springtime concert.