Sunday, March 28, 2010

Linden String Quartet/CityMusic Cleveland: Champagne & Chamber Music

A benefit concert for the CityMusic Education Program and Youth Orchestra.

Mozart: String Quartet in E-flat Major, K. 428
Mendelssohn: String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor
Linden String Quartet: Sarah McElravy, Catherine Cosbey, violins; Eric Wong, viola; Felix Umansky, cello.
At the Strauss home, Cleveland Heights.

The challenge with house concerts is you're rarely 100% sure that you're at the right location when you first pull up. In today's case, I circled the block once and on my second go around I saw a string quartet (or what could be best presumed to be a string quartet -- or four people randomly walking around with instrument cases -- crossing the street. Ignoring the obvious joke--"To get to the other side", of course--I parked, and rang the doorbell.

Quickly and warmly welcomed into the Strauss's home, I found myself surrounded by the frenzied activity of last minute preparation in the Kitchen--while my role was limited, consisting of unboxing baking shells, I enjoyed participating.

Today's concert was a benefit for CityMusic Cleveland's Youth Orchestra and eduction programs in Elyria and Cleveland's Slavic Village -- and in hearing Eugenia Strauss, Amitai Vardi, and Rebeccah Schweigert Mayhew speak on the topic, it sounds like a fantastic program and it's clear that the people shepherding music into underprivileged communities are both passionate and enthusiastic about their program.

And for the music of Linden String Quartet: Amazing. A house concert is by its definition an intimate setting, but sitting in the front row, inches from the musicians, of a concert so masterfully played was a fantastically immersive experience: Feeling Mr. Umansky's cello playing come up through my feet while Ms. McElravy and Cosbey's notes danced in my left ear while Mr. Wong's soothed the right. Ms. McElvray provided wonderful context for Mendelssohn piece, which I think was my favorite by a hair, including reading a poem that influenced the work.

There was no doubt that the musicians were enjoying playing as much as the audience was enjoying taking it in, punctuated only with subtle cues amongst themselves maintaining a perfect relationship amongst the parts. To emphasise the intimacy of the performance, Ms. McElvray came within inches of hitting me with her bow while receiving enthusiastic applause at the conclusion of the concert.

As one attendee and I discussed during the ensuing reception: It was like the members of a family: Each with a perfect understanding of each other's role along with their own. Attempting to play the violin myself on a regular basis, I particularly enjoyed and was captivated by Sarah McElravy and Catherine Cosbey's passioned playing and quick finger work.

I would be remiss if I didn't note that upon research I had heard Linden String Quartet perform Beethoven's Quartet in E-minor, Op. 52 No. 2 at CIM's String Quartet Seminar Gala Recital Concert back in December.

CityMusic Cleveland's next free concerts include a performance Wednesday, April 14, 7.30 pm at Fairmount Presbyterian Church--Assuming good weather, anyone interested in attending and up for a 40 minute walk--you're welcome to park at my place and join me on the way.


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