If you were to think of Swiss-born composer Ernest Bloch, chances are his "Night" for string quartet would not spring to mind. But that little gem of a piece is just what the Lipkind Quartet chose to open their first appearance at this year’s edition (which began on July 30) of the Cary Cross Currents Chamber Music Festival. Its dreamy and meditative qualities gave the Cary Arts Center audience a most appropriate introduction to the program title, "In Search of New Worlds." And these youthful players (violinists Artiom Shishkov and Yusuke Hayashi, violist Nora Romanoff-Schwarzberg and cellist Gavriel Lipkind) also gave said audience an early glimpse of unsurpassed synchronism and ensemble.
The mood could not have changed more dramatically as they moved from the Bloch piece into the stormy Molto allegro e appassionato movement of Barber’s String Quartet No. 1. This movement, along with the similar third, book-ended the (overly) well-known Adagio. It was good to hear that middle movement so well performed in its original setting, tending to mollify anyone who grieves that the many orchestral and even choral arrangements have rendered it somewhat hackneyed.
Speaking of little quartet gems, there was Rachmaninoff’s Two Movements for String Quartet. These movements, “Romance” and “Scherzo,” did not disappoint, showing the composer at his most symphonic and luxuriant. Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet told quite another story, spare, disquieting, even experimental.
The closing magnum opus of the evening, and clear audience favorite, was Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 12, the “American.” Inspired by the composer’s sojourn in Spillville, Iowa, the work is replete with appealing strains from the brief opening viola solo to its intense Finale. The melodies of the Lento, handed off from one instrument to another, so tug at the heart strings as to challenge anything else in the literature. But then practically equal intensity is reached in the very next Molto vivace movement. Give these players a peak rating for their technique and artistry.
And while you’re in that expansive mood, offer multiple cheers to the Town of Cary, to the Brussels Chamber Orchestra (prominent throughout the Series), and to the Cary Arts Center for making possible this marvelous Chamber Music Arts Festival.