Tesla Quartet @ 
Libby Gardner Concert Hall 02.07

Posted February 11, 2013 in

The Tesla Quartet masterfully maneuvered through tonally challenging pieces that were nonetheless enjoyable and riveting.

I am still consistently surprised at the rich layers of musical complexity that the simple parameters of a string quartet can accomplish, and this month's Chamber Music concert was particularly enjoyable. The Tesla Quartet started in 2008 at The Juilliard School. From 2009-2012, the lineup as is (with Ross Snyder and Michelle Lie on violin, Megan Mason on the viola and Kimberly Patterson on cello) held a fellowship as the Graduate String Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Here, they studied with the Takács quartet, which was the first chamber music concert of this season. They have since traveled extensively around the U.S. as well as internationally, with a multitude of awards to take home. 

The first piece by Mozart, Quartet in C Major, K. 465, "Dissonance," was a pretty rad piece to start out with. In the program notes, it explained that Mozart wrote these by listening to the quartets written by Haydn. Surprisingly, this was not well-received by the public, and the scores were often sent back for revisions, which was apparent through the turbulence of the piece. The first movement, "Adagio; Allegro," started out slow, with notes that were drawn out and dragged on. These elongated notes took abrupt, brisk departures into melodies that were quick and nimble. The transitions between measurements felt a little chaotic, in the sense that a mood would be established, and would suddenly change to a completely different feel in a mere break between the notes. It's cool, though—I like it when things get shaken up, so the disorder came welcome in my book. The next movement, "Andante Cantabile," introduced a cello line played by Kimberly Patterson that really resonated with me as it echoed with an oceanic aura, with the tides going placidly in and out. Although the theme was short, it repeated during random intervals throughout the movement and at different octaves, another welcome and plus one for Mozart in my book! The final movement, "Allegro," had moments that were so fast that the notes all blurred together, similar to the visions of rushing trees as you look out the window of a quickly moving vehicle. There were times that the notes slowed down, and the four of them played it sharp, perhaps to show that the players were still apt at their craft. I was seriously blown away at how fast some of the melodies went, and somehow, they kept it together without losing control.
The next piece, Carter Pann's Quartet No. 1, "Love Letters," takes a very interesting, contemporary twist. Written by a composer from Boulder, this piece took inspiration from Janacek's "Intimate Letters," which portrays the tumultuous emotions while going through a love affair. Starting out with "Prayer" were more drawn out notes that felt out of tune, but it was easy to recognize that the composer purposefully wrote it that way. My ears fooled me as the timbre during this movement had instances that sounded like woodwind instruments, with super high notes interspersed with those deep tunes. I also recognized some influence from Bartók with the pizzicato plucking distributed throughout. This was most predominantly used during "Serenade," a short and sweet movement before the impending doom of "Limbo" and "Passions." "Limbo" felt pretty stressful, with an intensity that never really died out. The weight of the bow forced on the strings was testament to the force of an emotional love affair. 
Although Respighi, Quartet No. 1 in D Major was written fairly recently (in 1907), it still felt like a classic quartet piece. This was definitely based more on emotions and a narrative as opposed to the technical experimentation found with modernism. I particularly enjoyed the dominance of the finale, which went through a multitude of mellow moods juxtaposed with some haunting moments, ending with an exciting conclusion. 
Only two concerts remain for the season! Check them out at cmsofslc.org.
The Tesla Quartet masterfully maneuvered through tonally challenging pieces that were nonetheless enjoyable and riveting.