New York Times Review

Thursday, 10. 28. 2010  –  Category: News

October 25, 2010

Practice Gets Group Back to Carnegie
By STEVE SMITH
The concert the Parker Quartet presented at Weill Recital Hall on Friday was billed as a Carnegie Hall debut, yet anyone with a knowledge of the ensemble’s history might have been struck with a sense of familiarity.

The quartet, formed in 2002 at the New England Conservatory, made a strong first impression at Weill nearly five years ago, with a program that included a Beethoven masterpiece and a complex modern work by the Hungarian composer Gyorgy Kurtag.

On Friday the same performers — Daniel Chong and Karen Kim, violinists; Jessica Bodner, violist; and Kee-Hyun Kim, cellist — returned to Weill. Again their program included a Beethoven masterpiece and a complex modern work by a Hungarian, this time Gyorgy Ligeti.

That this event was presented under the Carnegie Hall aegis was a testament to what the youthful group has achieved in the meantime. Its previous engagement was presented by the Concert Artists Guild, an organization that molds the careers of emerging classical performers. The distinction indicated that five years of steady work, both in concert halls and in nightclubs, has paid off.

Defusing what could have been a portentous affair, the Parker Quartet opened with five selections from Dvorak’s “Cypresses,” a collection of transcribed songs. Folksy and ingratiating, the music aptly showcased the quartet’s warm, secure sound and expressive unity, and revealed Ms. Bodner in particular as an especially soulful soloist.

Much as the comparably young Pacifica String Quartet has made a calling card of Elliott Carter’s treacherously difficult string quartet works, the Parker has advocated for Ligeti’s two mature quartets in both formal and casual concert settings, and on an admirable recent Naxos CD. In Ligeti’s Quartet No. 1 (“Metamorphoses Nocturnes”), the players showed an effortless grasp of the work’s bracing rhythms, jarring transitions and haunting chiaroscuro.

Conventional wisdom holds that performers this young lack the seasoning to convey fully the pain, piety and mystery of late Beethoven works like the Quartet in C sharp minor (Op. 131). That the claim is clichéd does not disprove it altogether; in overemphatic passages and in moments when cohesion slipped fleetingly, you sensed that the players were still finding their way.

Even so, their lucidity and poise indicated that theirs is an interpretation that will deepen with time. And when pressed for an encore, the group wisely offered the glowing Adagio from Haydn’s “Rider” Quartet (Op. 74, No. 3): instead of a bon-bon, a benediction.

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