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Belcea Quartet opens Buffalo Chamber Music season with grace, versatility

The Buffalo Chamber Music Society’s 95th season is upon us and the lineups for its regular concerts (the free “Gift to the Community” programs began last Sunday) look promising.

Tuesday evening found the Belcea Quartet taking to the stage in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall with an interesting program showcasing its versatility and the well-honed interplay of an ensemble at the top of its game.

Violinist Corina Belcea and violist Krzysztof Chorzelski have played together since 1994 and were joined by cellist Antoine Ledelin (a member since 2006) and second violinist Axel Schacher (who joined in 2010), both of whom have had plenty of time to mesh seamlessly into the mix.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote a set of string quartets dedicated to Franz Joseph Haydn based upon his reaction to the older composer’s Opus 33 string quartets. The G major quartet in that Haydn opus was the Belcea Quartet’s opener for the evening and it showcased the grace of both composer and performers right from the beginning.

Power was added to the mix with the group’s performance of Leos Janacek’s second quartet, a work of intense contrasts given the subtitle “Intimate Letters.”

Janacek’s music was informed, in large part, by his study of speech and its rhythms, particularly those found in the Czech language. There are documents and letters where he takes a spoken phrase and the cadence of the syllables, translating them into a graphic description complete with notes, staves and bars.

Since the score for “Intimate Letters” had, at its heart, the composer’s infatuation with a (way) younger married woman, the ebb and flow and  dance and dialog between the instruments make it tempting to consider the emotion and discourse Janacek was projecting with his art.

This would have been the single most affecting part of the concert given the talents of the Belcea Quartet, but the second half of the concert revealed the real piece de resistance - Ludwig van Beethoven’s B flat major quartet (op. 130) combined with the “Grosse Fuge” (op. 133) he had originally composed as the tag end of the other four movements of op. 130.

Here was one of those pieces where you could almost see the composer’s clairvoyance, the glimpse of what would happen in the 20th century due to his influence.

While the rest of the works on the program all received standing ovations from the packed house, the huzzah’s displayed as the final notes of Beethoven’s masterpiece faded into the ether were the loudest and longest lasting of the evening.

If you missed the Belcea Quartet’s performance on Tuesday night, the group will be playing another concert on Wednesday evening at Lippes Concert Hall at the University at Buffalo with works by Mozart, Bela Bartok, and Felix Mendelssohn.

REVIEW

Buffalo Chamber Music Society concert with The Belcea Quartet, Oct. 16 in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall.

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