Servants and Masters
The Tokyo String Quartet delivered on Sunday at Sherwood Auditorium.
I got caught up eating smoked chicken, black bean, and broccoli soup at George's, so I missed the opening act but the concert that started at 3:00 p.m. was phenomenal.
The range of musical style yielded some excellent conversation during the intermission and afterward.
The concert started with Shostakovitch and his 20th Century sensibilities, moved onto Wong (born 1982!) with her 21st Century use of silence and space, and then Franz Joseph Haydn.
My ears did a double-take when the Haydn started. It was as if we'd stepped out of an installation art piece at the adjacent Museum of Contemporary Art and into a candle-lit ballroom with lots of baby-blue and gilding.
The Haydn quartet was the first piece played solely by the Tokyo Quartet.
The second half of the concert was 40 minutes of Beethoven. His String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, Opus 131 is comprised of seven uninterrupted movements.
A standard quartet form is usually four movements with pauses between each movement.
As the Tokyo Quartet played through this music, I caught myself getting a little emotional. They were so good that I felt as though Beethoven was physically in the room — as if we were having a conversation with him directly. I take that back. Beethoven was there with all of his quirks, his joy, and his jokes. I got to meet him and I was thrilled.
The humility with which the Tokyo Quartet served the master was breathtaking. This was a concert experience that left me with an impression of the power of servant-hood.
When music serves the performer, we might be impressed but we are not moved.
There is power in a performance that submits itself to serve the music and everyone who has ears to hear rises to their feet to applaud the servants.
P.S. The program included one of the best bits of concert writing I've seen. In the middle of reading a description of the form of Beethoven's C-sharp Minor Quartet and its first movement, I read this.
"There is something rapt about the movement (and perhaps the entire quartet), as if the music almost comes from a different world. In a sense, it did. Beethoven had been completely deaf for a decade when he wrote this quartet, and now — less than a year from his death — he was writing from the lonely power of his musical imagination."
Tuesday night at 7:30 there is one more chance to hear the Tokyo Quartet at Sherwood Auditorium.