Music Institute presents Calidore String Quartet Review - A Special Blend

10.01.11
Calidore String Quartet
Splash Magazine

By Jonathan Rayfield

Music Institute of Chicago President Mark George opened the afternoon in Evanston’s lovely Nichols Hall by explaining the Music Institute’s mission of educating and energizing people of all ages to engaging in music performance. The MIC boasts 5,000 students - almost 75% of which are grade K-12 – from 90 Illinois communities. Their world class music education program cultivates some of the highest caliber performers. As George stated, “we grow artists”. The MIC’s mission statement asserts love of and education and training in music will enhance your quality of life and nourish the spirit, a mission executed handily through their operation and specifically through their annual concert series showcasing national artists as well as their own homegrown talent.

The Music Institute of Chicago continued its 2011-2012 Faculty and Guest Artist concert series on Sunday with a stellar performance by the Fischoff National Chamber Competition champions the Calidore String Quartet, featuring Jeffrey Myers and Pasha Tseitlin on violin, Jeremy Berry on viola, and Estelle Choi on cello. Calidore’s performance offered much more than a glimpse at a top-notch string ensemble, it was a lesson in exactly how an ensemble ought to perform, raising the bar for chamber ensembles.

As an auditory amuse-bouche, and as a chance to show and prove, the Music institute introduced 15-year-old violinist Kelly Talim to the stage to perform the Sarabande from JS Bach’s Violin Partita No. 1 in B Minor. Talim’s tiny frame and Sunday best outfit belied the full rich sound she drew from her instrument. The piece is difficult not just for the technique but also for the tempo, and Talim held her ground with maturity and polish. Her performance was a wonderful intro to the afternoon and I expect to hear from her again in the future.

When Calidore gained the stage it was with an earnest and determined pace. They began their program with the brisk and vibrant Italian Serenade in G Major by nineteenth century composer Hugo Wolf. With strongly melodic and sweeping passages, the Serenade still manages not to take itself seriously, ranging from somber and romantic to flighty and bombastic. The restless gesticulations of Myers as he shifted in his seat or the fervid scowl on Choi’s face as she anchored the group in the low range were a humorous juxtaposition to the overall brightness and lightheartedness of the piece. The group looked determined to sound as effortless as possible, and the end result was fantastic. It’s exciting to see great musicians playing great music.

From note one Calidore handily demonstrated their incredible cohesion as an ensemble. However, in performing the String Quartet in G Major No. 3 by 20th century composer Dmitri Shostakovich, they demonstrated why they are Fischoff National Chamber Competition champions.

Shostakovich is very challenging, not only to the performers but to the listeners. There are moments of intentional discomfort where light and happy melodies are peppered with loud discordance and jarring shifts in tone and meter. After the Allegro non troppo a woman two rows in front of me turned to a friend and breathlessly whispered “he’s a madman”. Calidore performed the Shostakovich masterfully, a beautiful blend of emotion, technique, balance, and insanity.

Schubert’s Quartetsatz topped off the second half of the performance, followed by Brahms’ String Quartet in A Minor No. 2. While both the Schubert and the Brahms further demonstrated the ensemble’s versatility, I felt my musical palate dulled by the Shostakovich, as if tasting a delicate sauvignon blanc after a complex pinot noir. Nonetheless, the Schubert and Brahms were performed with the same excellent energy and technique that made the Shostakovich so enjoyable.

Calidore is touring the Midwest in October as part of the Fischoff Competition’s ‘Winners Tour’, then performing several concerts at the venerable 2012 Emilia Romagna Festival in Italy. No doubt they will impress each audience with their tremendously good performances, providing fresh contribution to a long standing tradition of excellent chamber music.

The Music Institute of Chicago’s 2011 – 2012 concert series includes programming for young and old featuring musicians and composers young and old. Upcoming highlights include the multiple talents of the Vamos family in December, and acclaimed musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in May. Noteworthy annual events include the Four Score Festival of contemporary music in March; the Chicago Duo Piano Festival, in its 24th season, in July; Family Concerts in December and March; the second annual Emilio del Rosario Memorial Concert, this year featuring musical prodigy Conrad Tao in May; and the Martin Luther King, Jr. concert with the 100-voice Brotherhood Chorale in January.<