Friday, February 13, 2015

The Pacifica Quartet Plays With Students

The Pacifica String Quartet were guests at the SF Conservatory of Music all week, teaching master classes and rehearsing students for a wonderful chamber music concert on Thursday evening. In an interesting twist, the celebrated quartet split itself up and created new ensembles with the students, and the mixture of professionals and high-level aspiring artists gave the performances a liveliness and energy that was exceptional.

I heard the Pacifica play Shostakovich's 7th String Quartet a year ago at the SFJAZZ Center, and it was a spiky, compressed, hard-charging performance. With students Autumn Chodorowski (in red) and Meredith Kufchak (in black) joining Sibbi Bernhardson on violin and Brandon Vamos on cello above, it sounded completely different.

It was gentler, sadder, and moodier, which worked just as well as an interpretation, and the four players gave a superb, seamlessly integrated performance.

Shostakovich tends to overwhelm most other music on any program, but the 1904 String Trio in C Major by Dohnanyi held its own, helped along immensely by the unusually soulful, sweet sound of Pacifica violist Masumi Per Rostad on the left, playing the five-movement piece with violinist Joshua Peters and cellist James Jaffe.

After intermission, the entire Pacifica Quartet were joined by four students for Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat Major, music that can easily become dull and sickly sweet, but this performance was both precise and musically supple. You could hear every individual voice at all times but the performers played with a team spirit that made the music sound exciting and fresh. From left to right below, they were Simin Ganatra, violin; Sibbi Bernhardsson, violin; Autumn Chodorowski, violin; Joshua Peters, violin; Masumi Per Rostad, viola; Luis Bellorin, viola; Brandon Vamos, cello; and Patricia Ryan, cello.

I cannot imagine hearing a better live performance of the piece, and it was especially fun watching student violist Luis Bellorin (third from the right) rocking out through the whole thing.

No comments: