BEETHOVEN FESTIVAL PARK CITY, “The Revolutionaries,” Park City Community Church, July 19; through Aug. 20, tickets at www.pcmusicfestival.com
Ludwig van Beethoven’s string quartets are at the core of his chamber music output and staples in the repertoire. This season, the Beethoven Festival Park City (formerly known as the Park City Music Festival) begins a multi-year perusal of the quartets.
Thursday, the composer’s F major Quartet, op. 18, no. 1 – the one that started it all – was on the program to open this year’s edition of the annual summer music fest. Among the performers was violist Leslie Harlow, festival founder and co-director. She was joined by Brigham Young University violinist Monte Belknap, University of Montana violinist Margaret Baldridge and internationally recognized cellist Jeffrey Solow.
Playing in a quartet that that doesn’t appear together on a regular basis as an established ensemble presents some unique challenges but on Thursday the four played as if they’d been together as a quartet for years. They meshed well together and their playing was amazingly organic and cohesive. But that shouldn’t really surprise anyone, since they are all consummate chamber musicians with a remarkable sense of interpretation.
The foursome gave a radiant account of the work and infused it with a romanticism that served it well, especially in the Adagio. This slow movement was beautifully crafted and textured with a rich palette of expressions that brought out the subtleties of the music. And this, in fact, characterized the performance of the quartet as a whole. It was one of the most mesmerizing performances of an early Beethoven quartet heard here in a long time.
Also on the program was Robert Schumann’s captivating Fairy Tales, op. 43, played by Leslie Harlow, pianist and long time festival artist Robert Moeling and clarinetist and festival co-director Russell Harlow.
The four pieces that make up op. 43 are charming and gorgeously lyrical, and the three gave a nuanced and sparkling account that vividly captured the imagery of these imaginary fairy tales.
Solow and Moeling opened the concert with a powerful reading of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata. Wonderful collaborators, the two played the work dynamically. Particularly notable was their account of the Largo. They imbued their playing with deep emotions that underscored the pathos of the music in this movement. It was poetic and deeply moving.