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MUSIC REVIEW : Colorado Quartet Gives Shape to Ambiguous Ford Program

July 21, 1993|LAURENCE VITTES

After ten years, at the beginning of which it was often content to be merely charming, the Colorado Quartet has grown into an ensemble willing to take the time and thought to present interpretations of profound depth and substance.

Before a half-full John Anson Ford Amphitheater, violinists Julie Rosenfeld and Deborah Redding, violist Francesca Martin Silos and cellist Diane Chaplin combined their finely tuned if small-scale technical prowess with an unusual willingness to use the intimacy of expressive slides and unforced phrasing to illuminate a technically demanding, emotionally ambiguous program.

The concert began with Schubert's sad, meandering A-minor Quartet D. 804, popular for its use of a theme from the composer's ballet "Rosamunde" in the second movement. Instead of playing it in the usual forthright or seductive manners, however, Colorado underplayed the opening section of the first movement to such an extent that it became a long, logical prelude to the second half of the movement, striking effectively at the heart of the music's inability to commit itself, and, for the rest of the work, producing a hypnotic balance between Schubert's restrained melodic invention and his obvious unhappiness.

Next, Colorado took on Leos Janacek's Second Quartet, titled "Intimate Letters" in tribute to his decade-long affair with Kamila Stosslova, written in a three-week burst during the last months of the 74-year-old composer's life, and full of the occasionally quirky harmonies, Bohemian folk tunes and considerable passion that have become hallmarks of his style.

Unlike presumably authentic performances of this work by Czech quartets emphasizing its big-boned, macho energy, Colorado opened up and clarified the dense harmonic torrents, and added a light, dance-like spring to the folk tunes. The result was a deeply illuminating reading that--not surprising considering the amount of Czech immigration to that region--recalled calm but colorful strains of the American Midwest Heartland.

After intermission, Ravel's Quartet, written a quarter century before the Janacek and yet a work in which a lack of harmonic closure masking complex feelings does not so relentlessly also mask surface flash and glitter, allowed Colorado to close the concert with a refined and entertaining audience-pleaser.

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