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CHAMBER REVIEW
Viano String Quartet / Friday, November 11, 2022
Viano SQ

Viano String Quartet

CONTRASTS GALORE AT THE VIANO'S CONCERT AT THE 222

by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 11, 2022

Continuing a splendid series of downtown Friday evening concerts, Healdsburg’s 222 Art Gallery and Performance Venue presented the Viano String Quartet on Armistice Day in two widely contrasting works.

Contrasts indeed, as Haydn’s G Major Quartet, Op.76, No. 1, fits the Viano like an old shoe, the sound direct in the art space and the acoustics favoring cellist Tate Zawadiuk’s low register. Part of the six masterful works of the Opus 76, the genial four-movement work had lift and a brisk lightness in the opening Allegro, with wider vibrato and sustained pauses in the following Adagio.

The music’s pace increased again in the Menuetto with a more full-bodied sound from the performers, although not without moments of delicacy. The finale slowed the pace again as first violinist Hao Zhou played fast ascending and descending scales, and colleague Lucy Wang’s deft playing of the bridge passage leading to the principal theme’s return was captivating. Phrasing and instrumental balances were excellent. A professional performance, convincing and artistic.

Mr. Zawadiuk announced to the small audience of 60 in cabaret seating that Bartok’s Third Quartet would show the influence of Hungarian folk music, and also short at 14 minutes would test the interest and perhaps pleasure of many listeners with segments of pulsating musical dissonance. In four parts individual emotional states seem to unfold, with violist Aiden Kane setting the stage with fast vibrato and strongly projected thematic material.

Slashing bows and powerful sonorities are part of this work, and spiccato bowing alternated with pizzicato in the cello line that was fast but also light in character. The aggressive off-pitch slides were effective. The Viano’s sound in the composition from 1927 was always intriguing, sometimes with quick jabs of phrases, and sometimes a ritard to underscore a particularly delicious segment of the unfolding string narrative. The Coda playing elicited a waterfall of colorful sound. The prestissimo scale passages written pianissimo for playing near the cello's bridge (ponticello) were captivating.

It’s not music that is easily absorbed, especially in just a few hearings, but for me this evocative performance of the Quartet made me replace the Bartok No. 4 as a favorite of the composer’s six string Quartets.

Tchaikovsky’s D Major Quartet, Op. 11, comprising the concert’s second half, was not reviewed.

Corrick Brown and Daniel Greenhouse contributed to this review.