REVIEW: Brooklyn Rider goes out of bounds

10.14.11
Brooklyn Rider
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

By Richard Storm

We are beginning to be accustomed to being pushed outside our comfortable expectations when we attend chamber music at the Ringling Festival.

We had better get used to it, for there are very few cities in the world where we can hear a performance as demanding and skillful as that presented at the Historic Asolo Theater by Brooklyn Rider, a string quartet very different from the norm.

Violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords and cellist Eric Jacobsen produce a sound of such intense energy and probing beauty that they can carry an audience on a challenging musical journey with ease, as they proved on Thursday evening.

Beginning with composer/violinist Jacobsen’s remarkable fantasy on love, “Beloved do not let me be discouraged,” uniting the traditions and musical vocabulary of Middle Eastern folklore with that of the Italian “Laude,” medieval chants derived, perhaps, from the same troubadour sources, we were taken on a journey through time, hearing how “modern” some old music seems and how “old” more recent music can sound.

The quartet’s performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s iconoclastic and deeply satisfying String Quartet No. 14, was a perfect example of their commitment to proving that great music need not be bound by the conventions of its time.

So totally “out of the box” is this composition that it would be difficult to find anyone in a typical audience (other than a musicologist) who would identify this as the work of good old Ludwig. A continuous flow of movements, played without a break, takes us to the depths and heights of human experience – a sensation shared by both performers and audience.

The Brooklyn Rider musicians devoted enormous energy to this huge composition, but managed to save enough strength to perform a pair of Roma (Gypsy) pieces, without diluting their obvious joy in the task.