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Artemis Quartet Offers Glimpses of the Future

February 05, 2001|CHRIS PASLES

When the Artemis String Quartet plays Beethoven, it sounds like a young group fully deserving of the awards so far heaped upon it, but not nearly as mature as it's bound to become.

When it plays Ligeti, it sounds light-years more advanced--guides and guardians at the gateway of a wonderful new world.

That was the impression the quartet made when playing both composers Friday in Founders Hall as part of the concert series sponsored by the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

Formed in 1989, the quartet--violinists Natalia Prischepenko and Heime Muller, violist Volker Jacobsen and cellist Eckart Runge--played Ligeti's fiendishly difficult but transporting String Quartet No. 2 as to the manner born.

Composed in 1968, Ligeti's quartet reflects that time of turbulence, but can also be heard as embodying modern theories of space and time.

Take time, for instance. Ligeti makes it elastic and fluid throughout, but the relativity of time becomes the subject at the center of the five-movement work. The players start together, then quickly go out of phase, accelerating to what one perceives paradoxically as a steady state.

Space, similarly, is explored through extreme contrasts of dynamic, range and tempo, or juxtapositions of radio "static" and clarity. It's all intoxicating.

Runge prefaced the playing with affectionate and beguiling remarks, illustrated with musical examples. Characteristically, he finished by suggesting that the audience "forget everything I said."

With its lean, fine-honed and responsive, intimate playing, the quartet justified the spurious nickname, "Compliments," bestowed on Beethoven's Quartet No. 2. But it has yet to make all the details, themes and transitions in his second "Rasumowsky" Quartet (Opus 59, No. 2) sufficiently significant.

Prischepenko played first violin in the early Beethoven quartet. Muller played first in the other pieces.

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