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Escher Quartet, Jason Vieaux perform rewarding musical journey

People go to concerts for inspiration, for fun, for intellectual release. Sometimes those reasons show up at the same time in the same venue and then the lucky folks in attendance have reason to celebrate.

It was that way at the Buffalo Chamber Music Society’s program Tuesday in Kleinhans’ Mary Seaton Room where the Escher Quartet and Jason Vieaux (the Buffalo raised, world-renowned guitarist) showcased their talents with a wide-ranging collection of works to stimulate the mind, tease the ear, and bring a smile to faces.

The Escher Quartet played the venue back in 2013 and included Benjamin Britten’s third string quartet on the program. The quartet reprised its visit to that composer’s catalog by playing Britten’s second quartet, a 20th century masterpiece inspired by his post-war performance (accompanying violinist Yehudi Menuhin) for former prisoners of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and written for the 250th anniversary of Henry Purcell’s death.

Given the diverse elements inspiring this score, it is no surprise that the work contained a blend of deep emotion and rigorous beauty. The group’s performance did honor to the thought and heart behind the piece and were rewarded with a standing ovation from the audience.

It was the perfect capper to the first half of the program that also included a stellar performance of Franz Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in E flat major (op. 76, no. 6), one of that master’s last (and finest) musical offerings.

The later part of the evening’s concert was like a well-blended sonic digestif, a way of easing the audience on their way. The craft was there, from the composers heard and the musicians playing, but so too was the comfort level heard during their collaboration at the end of the program.

That didn’t come as a surprise to anyone hearing the pre-concert talk featuring Vieaux and the Escher Quartet’s cellist, Brook Speltz. The key sentence from the conversation, set amidst the banter, was Speltz’s comment that “Jason is our most frequent collaborator.”

Vieaux was first up in the second half, playing a trio of works and/or arrangements for his instrument. Francisco Tarrega’s “Capricho Arabe” has been a standard feature in guitar recitals for well over a century and, with the accompany pair of tunes by South American composers Antonio Carlos Jobim (“A Felicidade”) and Fernando Bustamante (“Misionera”), made for a nice post-intermission treat.

The finale, Luigi Boccherini’s Guitar Quintet in D major, was a delightful 18th century work by the composer, an arrangement that transformed sections from two of his own works for string quintet into a unified work for guitar and bowed strings. The last movement “Fandango” featured a wooden contraption (played by Speltz) that was created to mimic the sound of castanets.

All told it was an evening that traversed a sonic terrain from peaks to pleasant valleys, rewarding listeners  - who gave the performers well deserved standing ovations throughout the concert - with a rewarding journey that sent them happy and sated out into the night.

CONCERT REVIEW

Who: Escher Quartet and Jason Vieaux

When: Tuesday evening in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall

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