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Symphony
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by Steve Osborn
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Chamber
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Chamber
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Recital
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Symphony
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Choral and Vocal
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by Pamela Hicks Gailey
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Symphony
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by Terry McNeill
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Chamber
DISPARATE TRIOS IN HOLLYWOOD PIANO TRIO'S 222 CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
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Chamber
TANGO IMMERSION IN MILL VALLEY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 27, 2022
Recital
ALLURING GLASS WORKS IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 25, 2022
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Alexander String Quartet

Alexander String Quartet - 2021

EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience of 240, seats separated, and proof of vaccination required to enter the hall.

These small inconveniences were of course unimportant, as the ASQ gave their usual polished and convincing interpretations of Haydn, Shostakovich and Ravel Quartets. I have heard them since 1991, always playing artistically and this time using a stage shell and amplification from an excellent Festival sound system. Reverberation was balanced, never harsh or boomy.

Haydn’s C Major Quartet (Op. 54) comes from a set of three, and the opening Vivace received a lively reading with violinist Zacharias Grafilo’s singing top notes a delight. The brooding Adagio had splendid low register playing in all four instruments, and throughout the evening the sound system favored Sandy Wilson’s cello sonority. In the finale, a surprising mostly slow concluding movement, the themes were played nobly by Mr. Grafilo with the second violin (Frederick Lifsitz) and viola (David Samuel) in throbbing repeated-note support. A masterful work, played marvelously.

Announcements from the stage noted that August 1 would be the ASQ’s 40th anniversary, and
this concert would be the formal debut of newly minted member Mr. Samuel. Long-time violist Paul Yarbrough has retired.

Shostakovich’s shortest Quartet followed, the F-Sharp Minor from Op. 108, and was full of excellent solo playing. Long pizzicatos and introspective phrasing characterized the Allegretto, and the viola and cello lines were linked in the Lento at the octave, making an eerie sonic fabric. Motives were short. Wild fugal playing was heard in the finale, intense and convincing. A masterwork from 1960, performed masterfully.

A more popular masterwork, Ravel’s F Major Quartet, closed the program, and is a specialty of the Alexander. From 1904 and reflecting the Debussy Quartet, the ASQ’s reading of the Ravel gave the opening melody a warm richness. The pizzicato playing in the Assez vif – très doux was flawless, as was the trill and temolo playing. The rhapsodic slow movement (Très lent) had many subtle tempo changes, and the vigorous Vif et agité was a fast romp with many contrasting themes and a fanciful replaying of the work’s opening theme.

Applause was generous and surprisingly an encore was offered, Mr. Grafilo’s transcription for quartet of Shostakovich’s first Prelude and Fugue from his 1951 Op. 87. It was fetching playing, mostly slow and rich in instrumental color and charm. Perhaps there are more of these exemplary transcriptions?