Monday, December 31, 2018

The Telegraph Quartet at SF Performances

The Telegraph Quartet, one of my favorite young ensembles in the world, offered a concert of Eastern European composers at Herbst Theater earlier this month for SF Performances. Pictured above are (left to right) Eric Chin, violin; Pei-Ling Lin, viola; Jeremiah Shaw, cello; and Joseph Maile, violin

Joseph Maile gave an introduction to the program, noting that two of the composers, Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942) and Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996), were both Jewish and their fine music not very well known because of historical circumstance (concentration camp and Soviet Russia, respectively) rather than its quality.

The concert started with Schulhoff's Five Pieces for String Quartet from 1923, a spiky, lively, eccentric sounding set of dance miniatures. Pictured above are Eric Chin & Jeremiah Shaw.

This was followed by Dvorak's 1879 String Quartet in E-flat Major, Opus 51, which was given a sweet, delightful reading but it suffered from what I think of as The Janáček Effect. If you start off a concert with a piece by Leos Janáček, everything played afterwards will sound like the aural equivalent of weak tea. Schulhoff's music has a similar impact, and the Telegraph gave it a sensationally good performance. Pictured above is Pei-Ling Lin.

The second half was Weinberg's String Quartet #6, a work written in 1946 Soviet Russia, where the Polish composer fled the Nazis earlier during WWII, and not given its live world premiere until 2007. It's a great work, sounding a lot like his mentor Shostakovich but with plenty of Weinberg's own distinctive voice.

A Shostakovich quartet rather than the Dvorak might have been a better choice for this bold program. I've heard the Telegraph play Schoenberg, Cowell, and Webern over the years, and they are a terrific, intense young ensemble that plays brilliantly off of each other. Can't wait to hear what they tackle next.


Stephen Smoliar said...

You may have noticed that, in introducing the Weinberg quartet, Joseph Maile mentioned Quatuor Danel as the group's source for learning about Weinberg. In my own account of this concert, I noted that this group not only made all seventeen quartets part of their repertoire but also recorded them all. I downloaded their album during my days, and exploring the full scope of the Weinberg quartets was as much fun as exploring those of Shostakovich! That album is still a highly-valued item (at least by me) in my collection!

Pura Vida said...

i like the black dog a lot