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Pro Arte: Schubert, Bartok, Beethoven

Schubert: Quartettsatz, D. 703
Bartok: Quartet No. 5
Beethoven: Quartet in E Minor, Op. 59, No. 2

Pro Arte Quartet
David Perry, violin
Suzanne Beia, violin
Sally Chisholm, viola
Parry Karp, cello


Opening a new season in the newly refurbished Mills Hall Friday evening, the Pro Arte Quartet presented an excellent program of well-known works by Schubert (Quartettsatz, D. 703), Bartok (Quartet No. 5) and Beethoven (Quartet in E Minor, Op. 59, No. 2) before a capacity audience. Among the evident attractions at this particular concert was the first public appearance of the Pro Arte's two new violinists, David Perry and Suzanne Beia, who replaced, respectively, Norman Paulu and Jae Kim.

Perry and Beia are both passionately intense players, very enthusiastic about chamber-music music generally and excited about their new positions with the venerable Pro Arte, which would not have happened unless they were very, very good. Landing this sort of prestigious, high-profile job when still so young (both are 27) is uncommon, a fact doubtless high on the index of concerns for Perry and Beia themselves. The greater concern would almost certainly be to gain experience playing together with the quartet's remaining veterans, violist Sally Chisholm and cellist Parry Karp. Although all hands report already being comfortable with each other's playing, the heart of truly great quartet performance is that the four separate musical personalities merge into a single entity that is greater than the sum of its parts. Even in the best circumstances this does not happen all at once.

All the playing Friday evening was on a very high level. But in the Schubert and again in the Beethoven there were several noticeable minor lapses of perfect ensemble, the violins arriving just ahead of the center of the beat. At the same time, there was a somewhat contrary lack of spaciousness in the espressivo of the Schubert, as though the violins were holding back just a bit from the risks that might be implied. These are certainly not very serious problems to be having at this early stage. If all goes well, in a few years -- two to five, perhaps -- the new kids on the block will be old kids and perfectly meshed with the others.

No bumps of any sort were evident in the Bartok. This was to my ears a well-nigh perfect reading of the 1934 masterpiece, lacking nothing for intensity, poignancy, technical flash, delicacy, or ferocity. The audience was quite positive about it as well.

The next Pro Arte concert, Oct. 20th at 8:00 p.m. in Mills Hall, will offer quartets by Mozart, Ravel, and Brahms!

Isthmus, September, 1995
Copyright 1995 Jess Anderson

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