Gould quartet ends residency in style


June 28, 1993|By Robert Haskins

The Glenn Gould String Quartet -- named for the brilliant and enigmatic Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, by special permission of the pianist's equally enigmatic estate -- concluded its residency at this year's Columbia Festival of the Arts with a concert Saturday night at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre.

Saturday's concert was devoted to three pieces of classical music by composers whose work has been marked by an interest in folk music -- Mark O'Connor's String Quartet, Bartok's "Contrasts," and the Dvorak Quintet in G Major, Opus 77.

Mr. O'Connor, an artist known primarily for his dazzling performances of both country music and jazz, wrote his string quartet in 1990, scoring it for the unusual combination of violin, viola, cello, and bass.

It is thoroughly accessible, tonal music in which the three lower instruments generally play second fiddle to more virtuosic passages for the violin, nicely played by the composer.

The piece is charming; its fine performance received an effusive ovation from Saturday's audience. Mr. O'Connor's compositional technique is, however, a little too rough-and-ready to express his ideas as powerfully as they could be.

Bartok's music is some of the best produced in the first half of this century, frequently more compelling than the work of his more famous contemporary, Stravinsky.

His "Contrasts," originally written for Joseph Szigeti Benny Goodman, was performed Saturday by violinist Rolf Schulte, clarinetist Todd Palmer, and pianist Carol Archer.

The performance was excellent. Todd Palmer's clarinet tone seemed a bit more raw than on other occasions I have heard him, and it gave the music a raucous quality that was an effective, if not an optimal, approach to this music.

Pianist Carol Archer may have had less technical challenges than either clarinetist or violinist, but her playing was beautiful and commanding nevertheless.

Highest honors go to Rolf Schulte, who is surely one of the finest violinists of his generation.

He connects strongly with any music he plays, communicating its sensual and intellectual pleasures to his audience with absolute authority.

Columbia Festival organizers would do well to give this outstanding artist a residency of his own next season.

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