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Music Reviews : Meliora Quartet Plays At Caltech

May 05, 1987|DANIEL CARIAGA | Times Music Writer

Reliable instrumental skills, solid ensemble values and emerging musical interactions make the Meliora Quartet a good example of a young string quartet on the rise. Now only in its fifth season as an entity, the group promises much in its future.

At its Coleman Chamber Concerts performance on Sunday afternoon in Beckman Auditorium at Caltech, the Meliora Quartet showed modest strengths in a program of works by Mozart, Beethoven, Shostakovich and Dvorak.

Its forte would seem to be its piano. That is, what these string players--Ian Swensen, Calvin Wiersma, Maria Lambros and Elizabeth Anderson--do best is play softly. They seem to have honed the quiet end of their dynamic resources carefully; in that mode, they project and differentiate the music they play.

Their louds are less developed, less aggressive, less characterful. And their collective sense of style at this point seems limited.

Strangely overdressed--in evening clothes for a matinee performance--the four players began this concert indifferently, with Mozart's Divertimento in F, K. 138. They followed that with Beethoven's C-minor Quartet from Opus 18 in a reading well on the way to being appropriately dramatic, if in many moments still unfocused.

What they played best, Shostakovich's moody Seventh Quartet, they probed nicely, clearly marking an ascending, then descending, emotional progression. Here it was clear that much thought and planning had gone into an affecting performance.

But the finale to this generous but not overlong program again flirted with indifference. Though all the notes were in place, and solidly delivered, the ensemble's reading of Dvorak's "American" Quartet failed to lift spirits, raise the roof or spread joy--as we know it can.

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