Simply put, it's sibling revelry

Review: It's clear from a Shriver Hall concert Sunday that the brothers and sister Ying play well together.

October 30, 2001|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Chamber music, by definition, requires a close bond among the performers. The members of the Ying Quartet have a distinct advantage in this regard - they're siblings.

As the Yings demonstrated Sunday during the opening of the 36th annual Shriver Hall Concert Series at Johns Hopkins University, there's a lot more than mere unanimity of purpose when they collaborate. They are so comfortable with the whole business of technical interaction - the careful tonal blending of four instruments, the clarity of attack, the multiple nuances of phrasing - that they can focus on the deeper issues of music, all the whys and wherefores.

There was a kind of trajectory to the arrangement of program, starting with a quartet by Mozart that gives uncanny hints of the directions music will go harmonically and emotionally in the 19th century unleashing of romanticism. Next came a relatively early example of that new style of expression from Mendelssohn. And, finally, there was one of the most open-hearted cases of romantic fever, a piano quintet by Dvorak.

The performance of the Dvorak score - the A major Quintet, Op. 81 - had tremendous integrity, vibrancy and character. Here, the Yings exceeded even their high standards from the preceding portion of the concert. David Ying's cello and Phillip Ying's viola sang out with exceptional, unaffected warmth, making their every solo line doubly effective. There was a silvery articulation throughout from first violinist Timothy Ying, strongly complemented by sister Janet Ying on second violin.

Joining the foursome was Menahem Pressler, at 77 one of the revered deans of chamber music. Best known for his four decades-plus as pianist for the Beaux Arts Trio, Pressler provided a rock-solid foundation for the quintet. His playing was alive with imagination, from darkly poetic musings to sparkling right-hand runs spun out of the finest aural silk.

In Mendelssohn's D major Quartet, Op. 44, No. 1, the Yings maintained an effortless rapport and shaped the eloquent lines with considerable finesse. Timothy Ying's tone occasionally took on a hard edge, but his cadenza at the end of the third movement was beautifully molded.

The forward-looking powers of Mozart's E-flat major Quartet, K. 428, were keenly felt. The group's taut, probing account emphasized the first movement's unsettled opening theme, the second movement's nearly Wagnerian melodic breadth and harmonic richness.

Note: The next concert in the Shriver Hall series has a change in the lineup. Violinist Pamela Frank, scheduled to play a recital with her father, pianist Claude Frank, has been canceled due to a minor hand injury. Violinist Elmar Oliveira, accompanied by pianist Robert Koenig, will step in for the Franks on Nov. 11.

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