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by Mike Telin

CavaniQuartetWhy is it that we so often take for granted the musical greatness that exists in our own town? Case in point: the Cavani Quartet.

Appointed quartet-in-residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1988, the Cavanis are the only ensemble to have twice received the Guarneri String Quartet Award for Artistic Excellence (2005 and 2011). In addition to their numerous recital appearances at CIM they are also committed to taking the great string quartet literature out of the recital hall and into the neighborhoods. An example is the Beethoven & Brotherhood Project – during which the Cavanis played the complete quartets of Beethoven, one at a time, in sixteen public libraries throughout the Cleveland area.

As educators, the Quartet developed CIM’s Intensive Quartet Seminar, the Apprentice Quartet Program and The Art of Engagement for student ensembles devoted to the serious study of chamber music. Read the rest of this entry »


by Daniel Hautzinger

Wasmuth-SQFor much of its existence, chamber music was performed in private homes for small gatherings of friends. A recital by the Wasmuth Quartet on January 14 in Oberlin Conservatory’s Stull Recital Hall had the feeling of those earlier soirees, an intimate and cozy evening. The concert was part of Oberlin’s month-long String Quartet Intensive and Festival.

Stull is small as performance spaces go, with no raised stage. For the Wasmuth’s concert, standees crowded the back and extra seating surrounded the performers on three sides, putting some audience members nearly within arm’s reach of the musicians. Such a close setting also grants an unusual acoustic: resonance is lost, but every detail cuts through. That exposure could be a nightmare for a performer, but the Wasmuths easily adjusted to the venue.

And good thing they did: the sprightly lines of Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 50 No. 6 (“The Frog”) were lithe in their hands, every note clear and bright. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hautzinger

Kulas-OberlinViennese” is often a byword for “light.” It conjures images of bourgeois gentlemen nibbling cream-filled pastries while being entertained by effortless waltzes like “The Beautiful Blue Danube.” The second concert in Oberlin Conservatory’s String Quartet Intensive and Festival, “A Viennese Evening” on Jan. 10 in Kulas Recital Hall, was thus a charming and pleasant affair.

The program began with an oddity, Ferdinand Rebay’s Quartet in d minor for guitar and string trio. Rebay (1880-1953) spent most of his life in Vienna and died in obscurity after being blacklisted by the Nazis, as violist and organizer of the Festival Michael Strauss explained during intermission. Rebay is so unknown that Friday night was the U.S. premiere of the work. Strauss was joined by three other Oberlin faculty members for the piece: violinist David Bowlin, cellist Darrett Adkins, and guitarist Stephen Aron, who suggested the performance.

Guitar is rare in chamber music. Rebay, perhaps understanding its lack of projection, mostly uses the guitar in the d minor quartet to flesh out the harmony or to add rhythmic excitement. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hautzinger

ZHULLA-AretaDuring the month of January, Oberlin Conservatory is hosting a String Quartet Intensive and Festival, during which student quartets receive coachings from guest artists and faculty members while rehearsing diligently. Those guest musicians, joined by faculty, are also giving recitals throughout the month so that students may experience and learn from their artistry in a concert setting. On January 7, faculty pianist James Howsmon joined the young Greek violinist Areta Zhulla in Kulas Recital Hall for the festival’s inaugural concert.

The highlight of the night was Mozart’s Violin Sonata in e minor. Howsmon and Zhulla poignantly rendered the bare opening statement of the first theme, setting a mood of solemn pathos. The heartbroken melody of the second movement was wrenching, decorated by the most distinctive feature of Zhulla’s playing: her wonderful vibrato. Howsmon’s crystalline accompaniments provided stark relief for the emotive theme. When the music turns to major in the middle section, it is like a retreat into a comforting memory. But the solace does not last, as the pain of the present rushes back to end the piece. Read the rest of this entry »

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