This article was originally published in the summer 2012 Harker Quarterly.
The Harker Concert Series season came to a close on March 17 with a distinguished string quartet, who ran a master class with orchestra students and then performed to a full house in Nichols Hall auditorium.
The Afiara String Quartet is a Canadian group with impressive résumés: the foursome have degrees from Juilliard, Peabody, New England Conservatory, San Francisco Conservatory and Mannes College among them. Together the result is a tightly knit, focused yet relaxed ensemble that interprets music as though it were coming from just one bow.
In the hands of this quartet, Beethoven’s “String Quartet in F minor, Op. 95” was aggressive, passionate and full of extremes, just as one wants Beethoven to be. Violist David Samuel and cellist Adrian Fung had a chance to show off the rich sonorities they coaxed from their instruments, and the group bobbed and swayed in perfect physical harmony as they dug into the dramatic piece, executing flawless transitions between tempi and movements.
Next was a commissioned work by Samuel’s Juilliard buddy Brett Abigaña, a rising star in the classical world, and the piece seemed perfectly designed to highlight each player’s musicianship and virtuosity. The first movement was hauntingly beautiful, with a stunning dissonant ostinato provided by the two violinists, Valerie Li and Yuri Cho. The piece ended in a flurry of scalar passages, performed absolutely in sync and with clarity and precision that were truly spectacular. This piece was a wonderful mixture of modern atonality and lush melodies, and it was a treat to have such a positive glimpse of classical music’s future.
The Bohemian composer Dvorák is known for infusing his work with nationalistic folk songs, and it didn’t take much imagination to hear such themes in his string quartet, next on the program. The third distinct genre of the evening, this piece received the same flawless interpretation as the others, showing Afiara’s comfort with various styles.
It is truly a learning experience for students and the community alike to witness such a seamless meeting of the minds amongst members of a small ensemble like the Afiara String Quartet.