Vancouver Quartet shows star qualities in rush performance!

Calgary Pro Musica Borealis String Quartet Eckhardt-Gramatte Hall Rozsa Centre The University of Calgary


Patrons of the Calgary Pro Musica series were expecting a concert by the Miro Quartet when they arrived at the Rozsa Centre. But because of a last-minute illness, the Miro Quartet was unable to appear.

Fortunately, the Vancouver-based Borealis String Quartet was available on very short notice, and with just a half-hour delay, they were able to play the concert within hours of receiving the phone call. There was even a printed program with program notes -- a feat of administrative virtuosity impressive in its own way.

The quartet of four talented young Canadians is very aptly named. The word boreal refers to the idea of north, and in its Latin form it is commonly found in the phrase Aurora Borealis or, as we more often say, Northern Lights.

Thus, the group is from the north and suggests the idea of stars.

With its intense, focused style of playing, drawing the maximum expression from every phrase, the quartet presents itself as a group of star players, the energy radiating from them like the stars.

The quartet is led by Patricia Shih, a violinist of mercurial temperament, remarkable physical freedom in performance, and tremendous energy--qualities she transmits impressively to the slightly more phlegmatic men that make up the rest of the quartet.

While the sound of the quartet is well-balanced, with strong solo abilities in all the players, it is to Shih that the eye is irresistibly drawn, and there is the unmistakable sense that she governs the shape of the performances, especially in intensity and interpretation.

These qualities were evident throughout the evening, but perhaps most persuasively so in the final work, Grieg's String Quartet in G minor.

A work of great passion and fervour, alternating with sections filled with sentiment, it is a thoroughly romantic piece and well suited the temperament of the players.

As a piece, it strives for the most in the projection of four string instruments, and in this striving one sensed, here and there, the upper limits of the sound capacity of the players, an instance where the gesture exceeded the actual sound.

But this was nonetheless an impressive and memorable account of the work, especially in the projection of the inner qualities of the melodies.

The program also included the first string quartet by Canadian composer Imant Ramish, a work written for the Borealis Quartet.

As with other of the composer's works, this one is very well composed and somewhat traditional in idiom.

This is not to damn with faint praise, but merely to say that the composer prefers to write within the established conventions of string quartet composition.

The work is rich in interesting melodic ideas, which are well worked out, and there is considerable imagination in the scoring. It certainly was well played by the quartet, which evidently has an affection for the piece.

A sprightly account of Beethoven's familiar String Quartet in F major, op. 18, No. 1 completed the program, one that drew much applause from the large audience.

In response, the quartet played an encore in the form of a Taiwanese folksong that sounded much like Dvorak.

Given the enjoyment they gave to the audience, one can only hope it will not be long before the quartet returns.

Read more:
Related Link
Back to List
Back to Top