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There was a good turnout of music lovers in the fine auditorium of Carol Woods Retirement Community for an interpretatively and technically well-prepared program of string quartets. All the members of the Oak City Quartet are members of the North Carolina Symphony. Led by violinist Dovid Friedlander, Associate Concertmaster since 2005, he is joined by violinist Erin Zehngut (since 2016), violist Amy Mason (since 2012), and cellist Nathaniel Yaffe (since 2013). Their concert juxtaposed works by teenage wunderkinds.
Quartet in C, K. 157 by fifteen-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91) was the third of a set of six written during his third visit to Italy where his opera Lucio Silla was being presented during Carnival in Milan. It is in three movements: Allegro, Andante, and Presto. The opening first theme is derived from the ascending and descending scale of C Major. C minor dominates the poignant slow movement before returning to the major in the vivacious finale.
Mozart gives no cover for players, and the Oak City players needed none. Intonation was superb, and their phasing was stylish. The unison playing of Friedlander and Zehngut was especially pleasing while Mason and Yaffe produced warm string tone. Mozart's more independent scoring in the slow movement gave each player more scope to "shine." The players brought out the composer's youthful zest in the fast-paced finale.
Quartet in A minor, Op. 13 by the eighteen-year old Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47) was composed between July and October 1827. It was the first of his quartets that he considered worthy of publication. It contains his boldest efforts until his last quartet. It is in four movements: Adagio-Allegro vivace, Adagio non lento, Intermezzo: Allegretto con moto-Allegro di molto, and Presto-Adagio non lento.
The Oak City's insight and technically polished playing in Mendelssohn's Second Quartet could stand beside those of touring ensembles. Friedlander was superb in his several prominent solos in, for example, the last two movements. All four really dug into their strings to convey the young composer's dramatic, passionate intensity. They brought out the Late Beethoven and J. S. Bach influence in the fugal parts of the slow movement. The pizzicatos of the Intermezzo were delightful as was the pairing of short phrases of Friedlander with long melodic melodies from Mason's burnished viola. Yaffe brought plenty of richness to the cello parts.