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Brentano Quartet: a night of professional music

Every semester, the music department typically hosts a chamber group to run a masterclass. During the masterclass, student chamber groups have the opportunity to play for and receive feedback from the guest artists. Following the class, the quartet plays its own recital in the evening. On Monday, April 15, St. Olaf welcomed the Brentano Quartet to campus.

The quartet hails from the East Coast, and features Serena Canin and Mark Steinberg on violin, Misha Amory on viola and Nina Lee on cello. The group has been playing together since 1992 and has toured both nationally and internationally. They have also been recipients of several awards and are the Resident String Quartet at Yale School of Music.

The concert began with Beethoven’s String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18, No. 5. All four movements of the piece were played, and I was impressed at the group’s ability to keep up the high level of energy throughout. It seemed fitting that the quartet chose to open with Beethoven as they are named after Antonie Brentano, a close friend of Beethoven, whom he dedicated his “Diabelli” variations to. She is also rumoured to be the “Immortal Beloved” Beethoven wrote to in a love letter. Beethoven’s string quartet’s are arguably some of his best works, so it was exciting to see one performed live.

Following Beethoven, the quartet played Bartók’s String Quartet No. 2 Op. 17. This piece was my personal favorite of the night.

It incorporated various aspects of folk music from Bartók’s native Hungary. The last movement was particularly interesting as it was slow and solemn. I enjoyed being left with a more contemplative ending. It is also interesting to note that this piece was written in 1917 during the first World War. This piece, particularly the ending, is highly reflective of the the era it was written in. It was very cool to see history and music intersect in this work.

As a huge chamber music fan, I was excited going into this concert. Fortunately, the Brentano Quartet did not disappoint. Although the pieces played are incredible alone, the quartet’s movement and energy truly brought them to life. The concert was engaging and I thoroughly enjoyed the passion the Brentano Quartet brought to the stage.  Overall, the concert was a fun break from homework on a Monday evening. It was a great opportunity to see such a talented group without having to leave campus.

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