Montreal Chamber Music Festival, Day 3

Calidore String Quartet

Sextets in the City

By Laurence Vittes


The three Americans and one Canadian who comprise the four-year-old Calidore String Quartet (Jeffrey Myers and Ryan Meehan, violins; Jeremy Berry, viola; and Estelle Choi, cello) made their Montreal Chamber Music Festival debut Saturday night, highlighted by a performance of Brahms’ Sextet Op. 36 so full of love and so seamlessly integrated that it might have been written for them. Brahms himself might not have imagined what perfection the Calidores, joined by violist Marcus Thompson and cellist Benoit Loiselle (principal cellist of Les Violons du Roy), could bring to his musical affection for the work's dedicatee Agathe von Siebold.

The six musicians played as one, the solos layered as if illuminated from within, the intertwining dialogs always generous and embracing. Perhaps most impressively of all, their lyrical sense of forward motion trumped conventional time beating to produce a stream of transforming musical emotion that seemed to arc from the first bar to the last.

The performance was full felicities. Those included taking the first movement repeat and then at the double bar for the second time deliciously getting into the mystery—first violin Myers showed miraculous timing for the upbeats into the second movement Trio and, after an exquisite Poco Adagio, ruled by a wonderfully-judged emotional range, wound up with a brilliantly compelling Poco Allegro finale that flashed into the concluding Animato with rarely-heard energy and conviction. The evening began with a refreshingly lean, seductive performance of Richard Strauss’s String Sextet from Capriccio, Op. 85 followed by two late Romanticism-drenched works for voice and strings in which mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal contributed her creamy voice and vividly dramatic presence: Zemlinsky’s “Maiblumen blühten überall” and Respighi’s “Il Tramonto.”

The Caldicore formed at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles in 2010 and has won numerous prizes (and a controversial non prize at this year’s Banff International Strings Quartet Competition). This fall, the ensemble is headed for a two-year residency under the tutelage of the Emerson Quartet at the State University of New York campus at Stony Brook. The quartet is comprised of four highly intelligent, deeply sensitive virtuosos playing on an incongruously, perfectly-matched set of instruments (Stefano Scarampella 1905, Eugenio Degani 1894, Peter Greiner 2005, and Charles Jacquot ca. 1860's).

They will be recording their first CD this fall—Mendelssohn Op. 13 and Haydn Op. 76 No. 3—and one can only hope that the festival brings them back to play quartets (not sextets oir even quintets) for the 20th anniversary season in 2015.