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String Quartet Brings Warmth To Cold Night

FROM FOR THE RECORD (Saturday, December 14, 1996): Correction The birth date of the late Hans Moldenhauer, Spokane musicologist and author, is Dec. 13. The date in a music review in Friday’s IN Life section was incorrect.

Spokane String Quartet Tuesday, Dec. 10, The Met

The Spokane String Quartet made some beautiful music to a small audience at The Met Tuesday night, turning those hundreds of cold, printed, black notes by Mendelssohn, Brahms and Webern into warm, exiting sounds. The quartet members were joined by Spokane-born, Los Angeles-based pianist Janet Goodman Guggenheim in one of her all-too-rare visits home.

I confess to having arrived late and listening through closed doors to the passionate opening movement of Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E minor. Once inside, I smiled at the skittering lightness of the Scherzo and was moved by the quartet’s fervent playing in the songful Andante. There were particularly lyric solo passages by cellist John Marshall and first violinist Kelly Farris.

Mendelssohn’s Presto finale furnished violist Tracy Dunlop and second violinist Jane Blegen opportunity to duet melodiously though the thicket of figuration furnished by Farris and Marshall. Mendelssohn’s quartets are not heard frequently, and performances as good as Tuesday’s made me wonder why.

Introducing Webern’s Quartet, Farris pointed out that Tuesday would have been the 90th birthday of Hans Moldenhauer, the discoverer of this intense, deeply romantic work. Moldenhauer, a longtime Spokane resident, died in 1987. Written in 1905, when the composer was only 22, this work is filled with the yearning only the young know. The warmth the Spokane Quartet brought to this work was a tribute both to the young, ardent Webern and to his scholarly biographer and chief prophet, Moldenhauer.

Warmth and intensity also were the qualities marking the performance of Brahms’ Piano Quintet with Guggenheim. It is easy to treat this work like a piano concerto with murmuring commentary from the strings. Guggenheim did not view it that way. Instead, she and the quartet achieved a smooth partnership that allowed Brahms’ to spin out his ideas in a sometimes profound, sometimes jocular conversation. The finale in Tuesday’s performance was wonderfully potent, the five players seeming to push back the furniture and join in one of Brahms’ fiery Hungarian dances.

, DataTimes