MODIGLIANI QUARTET, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, Nov. 12

Modigliani Quartet (Photo courtesy of the artists)

Among the many newer European quartets the Modigliani certainly ranks right at the top. The four Frenchman of the group possess remarkable musicality and technique and they are masters of interpretation. Since its start a decade ago, the Modigliani has shown it’s an ensemble ready to bring new standards to quartet playing.

Thanks to the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City the Modigliani made a welcome return visit to Libby Gardner Concert Hall Tuesday, where they played a wonderful program of Haydn, Debussy and Dohnányi.

They opened with Haydn’s delightful Quartet in G major, op. 76, no. 1. It’s a captivatingly charming work filled with effervescent lightness and containing a gorgeous slow movement. The foursome captured the vibrancy of the music in the three fast movements with their fluid playing and sprightly tempos. In the Adagio, they brought rich expressiveness to their reading that carried an undertone of poignancy. Their playing was filled with warmth and heartfelt emotions.

Debussy’s sole quartet followed the Haydn to round out the first half. Perhaps it’s a cliché to say that French musicians are the best at interpreting the music of their countrymen, but the Modigliani certainly has an edge over other quartets when it comes to the Debussy. The four gave an absolutely stunning account of the work; it was impassioned and powerful in its articulation and execution without overstating anything. Their playing was infused with beautifully crafted phrasings, textured lyricism and subtle expressions. It was a wonderfully heartfelt and sensitive interpretation.

Except for a very few works, Dohnányi’s music is generally neglected today. That made the inclusion of his Third Quartet on this program a special treat. The work is from 1926, a period where he had moved on from his overly lush romanticism to a leaner style. Germanic romanticism still infuses the works from this period, but it is much more tempered and sophisticated than in his early works.

The Modigliani gave a stellar account of the Third that captured the intense expressions, the drive and at times raw emotions of the music. Their interpretation had depth and was infused with an eloquence that brought definition to the music.

As an encore, the four played a brief movement from one of Schubert’s quartets.

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About Edward Reichel

Edward Reichel, author, writer and composer, has been covering the classical music scene in Utah since 1997. For many years he served as the primary music critic for the Deseret News. He has also written for a number of publications, including Chamber Music Magazine, OPERA Magazine, 15 Bytes, Park City Magazine and Salt Lake Magazine. He holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He can be reached at Reichel Recommends is also on Twitter @ReichelArts.

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