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The Borromeo String Quartet Merges Mozart and Friendship


The Borromeo String Quartet is an ensemble of friends playing for friends. Such isthe intimacy and tightness of their excellent musicianship, and the effect it had on the audience Thursday in Founders Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

All this is even more remarkable in that two of the members only joined the group in August. It usually takes years--if not decades--for a quartet to meld like this.

William Fedkenheuer, second violin, and Mai Motobuchi, viola, are the newcomers. Nicholas Kitchen, first violin, was a founder, at the Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia in 1989. Yeesun Kim, cello, joined a year later.

From joys and insights into Mozart's "Dissonance" Quartet (K. 465) too numerous to detail, consider only two. In the Andante cantabile, when cellist Kim began a line of grief and pain, the others immediately sympathized and began to console her.

In the Allegro, the free-flowing, high-spirited discussion erupted in a quarrel, and at the danger point everyone stopped, assessed what was at stake and realized that nothing was worth the dissolution of the union.

Pain and consolation are also the subject of Steve Mackey's "Ars Moriendi (nine tableaux on the art of dying well)," a commission by the quartet receiving its world premiere. The powerful 24-minute work depicts the death and honors the life of the composer's father. In realistic terms, it brings us back again and again to the hospital room in which his father struggled to breathe after suffering a massive stroke in 1993. But it also takes frequent flight in memories of his vigorous life.

The committed interaction the quartet showed in both pieces widened and deepened when Christopher O'Riley joined the four for a sweeping and passionate performance of Brahms' Piano Quintet in F minor, Opus 34 to close the concert. All that was unpredictable maybe was the full-throated romantic expression they brought to the work.


* Borromeo Quartet and Christopher O'Riley, Sunday, 4 p.m., Schoenberg Hall, UCLA. $40. ($9, UCLA students.) (310) 825-2101.

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