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Music lovers present in Carol Woods Retirement Community's assembly hall for their series' penultimate concert were rewarded with well-prepared performances of standard repertoire pieces by the Lyricosa Quartet. Founded in the spring of 2018, the Raleigh-based ensemble consists of four experienced musicians. First violinist Carol Chung is concertmaster of the North Carolina Opera and plays regularly with the NC Symphony. Second violinist Lyda Cruden is a violin and viola teacher and free-lance performer in Raleigh. Simon Ertz is Principal Viola of the Winston-Salem Symphony and a member of the Greensboro Symphony who toured as a member of the Degas Quartet from 2002-10. Rosalind Leavell joined the cello section of the NC Symphony for the 2018-19 season and regularly performs with the NC Opera Orchestra.
Mozart's relatively rare use of minor keys is to be found in his most personally revealing works such as Quartet No. 15 in D minor, K. 421 (1783), the second of his set of six quartets dedicated to Haydn. Mozart brings his inspired touch to works based on the older composer's models as established in his Op. 33. The D Minor Quartet, K.421, is in four movements: Allegro moderato, Andante, Menuetto & Trio: Allegretto, and Allegro ma non troppo.
The Lyricosa musicians played with beautiful, rich tone, very good intonation, and stylish phrasing. Mozart gives no cover for any error, and I only heard one stray note in the second movement. Chung's numerous prominent melodic lines were glowing. The third movement featured strong rhythms and wide dynamics. Its Trio, with solo episodes for first violin and viola set against pizzicatos, was striking. Chung's elaborate violin line and its pairing with Erzt's burnished viola were among the many pleasures of the variations in the Finale.
The Quartet in G minor, Op. 10 (1893), by Claude Debussy (1862-1918) is his earliest breakthrough work. In a typically French move, he takes the Classical quartet structure and, prism-like, brings a kaleidoscopic swath of color, tone, and germinal melodic cells. It is in four movements: Animé et très décidé, Assez vif et bien rythmé, Andantino, doucement expressif, and Très modèrè-En animent peu àpeu-Très mouvementé et avec passion.
The Lyricosa players turned in a marvelous performance that could stand comparison with those of major touring groups, fresh and untarnished by travel and repetition. The gossamer, shifting melodies were perfectly presented. Individual instrumental color and tonal qualities were a constant pleasure from wonderfully focused highs from Chung and Cruden, to Leavell's dark, rich cello, and to Ertz's plangent viola, especially his ostinato solo in the second movement. This movement, with all instruments muted, was a highlight. The slow movement was delightfully detailed. The passionate finale brought the audience to its feet for sustained applause.
No performance of the Lyricosa Quartet should be missed. They will play again in the fall season at Carol Woods.