The Pacifica Quartet
Saturday in Lippes Hall on the University at Buffalo's North Campus, Amherst.
New people are turning up at the Slee Beethoven Quartet Cycle. Saturday night, when the young, vibrant Pacifica Quartet performed, there was scattered applause between movements, when clapping isn't customary. That's a sure sign of new Beethoven fans. Welcome!
The Pacifica's concert offered a lot to be excited about.
The group swept into the opening quartet, the "Harp," with easy togetherness. It was a flawless beginning for this lovely, lyrical piece. The famous pizzicato passages had a rustic energy, and the music seemed to sail effortlessly along, as this music should. Things got even better in the slow movement. First violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson displayed a resonant, singing tone on the heartbreakingly beautiful opening theme.
The early quartet, Op. 18 No. 2, that followed showed style and wit. It's fun to watch the Pacifica. The musicians -- who also include violinist Simin Ganatra, violist Masumi Per Rostad and cellist Brandon Vamos -- sit stone-faced, barely glancing at each other. But they pour out the music with grace and passion. The Scherzo of Op. 18 No. 2, in particular, had a crisp, athletic vigor.
In keeping with tradition, the night ended with the Quartet in C Sharp Minor, Op. 131. This mountainous, craggy piece is one of the supreme challenges of the quartet literature. People might think the Pacifica a little young to take it on -- the piece is so heavy with life experience -- but the musicians acquitted themselves extremely well.
The group knew how to pull people into this piece, and that's not easy. How ahead of its time this music was. It's still startling.
The audience gave the Pacifica a standing ovation.
The Slee cycle continues Dec. 10 with an appearance by the Orion String Quartet.