Tesla Quartet creates stirring contrasts

The Monday following reading week, the Tesla Quartet performed its third recital of the school year, showcasing again why it is a highly acclaimed chamber ensemble. The program featured string quartets by landmark composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Jean Sibelius, as well as American composer Kevin Puts’s Dark Vigil, which offered a striking contrast to Mozart’s tonal approach and Sibelius’s Finnish style.

The program’s opener, Mozart’s String Quartet in D Minor, K. 421, presented a variety of musical atmospheres in each movement. The first movement, “Allegro moderato,” displayed the ensemble’s delicate playing, with a fine pace, a warm tone and well-thought-out phrasing. This movement had a consistent drive of energy, and the quartet did an excellent job of bringing new intensities to each repetition of the frequently recurring opening motif. With effective use of eye contact and visual gestures, the ensemble demonstrated its knowledge of which instrument had the important lines.

“It is amazing how four amazing solo individuals can come together and perform as one sound,” first-year violinist Sannu Lawt said.

Acclaimed Chamber ensemble Tesla Quartet evokes A variety of musical atmospheres in its third recital at Mt. A. Jeff Mann/Argosy

The gentle nature in the second movement, “Andante,” contrasted with the more spirited energy of the third movement, “Menuetto allegretto.” In the fourth movement, “Allegro ma non troppo – piu allegro,” the cello offered a nice foundation to support a swifter tempo. The ensemble’s precise bow strokes created a clean sound, and the movement ended with a full texture.

Puts’s contemporary composition Dark Vigil offered the audience a wide range of emotional experiences. Composed in 1999, it was written in response to the violent shootings that happened in elementary and secondary schools in the United States.

“I was generally astounded by how haunting the Dark Vigil piece was,” first-year oboe student Maggie Pitman said. “The cello in particular had an eeriness that gave me chills. They captured the essence of the piece perfectly.”

The ensemble elicited the fear and darkness associated with the tragic events in response to which the piece was written. In the opening, the audience could feel a sense of uneasiness conveyed using techniques such as glissandos, which created a feeling of urgency. The ensemble’s playing displayed control and discipline, as often one voice had a chaotic and hectic line while another had a softer and thinner texture. They incorporated moments of stillness and delicacy, making the composition the most intriguing, intimate and engaging work of the program.

Sibelius’s String Quartet in D Minor, Opus 56, “Voces Intimae,” ended the program, highlighting the ensemble’s cohesiveness. This string quartet, featuring folk elements, contrasted significantly in style to the Mozart string quartet.

The first movement opened conversationally between the first violinist and the cellist, with lush, long, arching melodies and was followed by a light and quick moving second movement. The third movement demonstrated the “Voces Intimae” (inner voices) with a prominently reflective atmosphere, capped with a stunning ending. Driven by fast passages of lively, rhythmic figures, the rigorously active fourth movement contrasted with the middle one. The final movement possessed the most momentum, although the quartet maintained a steady pulse throughout.

“They made a good selection of pieces, opening with a marvelous Mozart string quartet,” Lawt said. “Dark Vigil was an interesting touch, and surprised me as being modern. It brought a new perspective to what a contemporary composition is like. And the Sibelius string quartet was heavenly.”

The Tesla Quartet will perform the final recital of its residency at Mt. A on Saturday, April 1, with works by George Gershwin, William Bolcom, Lev Ljova and a freshly composed commissioned work.

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