March 28, 2000
A Review by Pat and Ernie Pinson
Sunday, March 19 completed a weekend of the performing arts in Mobile with the Chamber Music Society’s presentation of the Amernet String Quartet. It is Ohio based, but comprised of three men from Israel and Mexico, and one woman from Greenville, S.C. - the second native from Greenville, S.C. to take the stage this weekend -- Robert Moody, guest conductor of the Mobile Symphony was the other.
The Quartet has won many awards all over the world, and is destined to be one of the leading chamber groups of the next decade. They opened the program with the premier of a work written for them by Japanese composer, Toshi Ichiyanagi. An unusual work to begin a program, it was atonal and somewhat programmatic called “In the Forest.” Ichiyanagi was a student of John Cage and absorbed his reverence for nature and natural sounds. It incorporated glissandi, that sliding motion up or down the string, harmonics - lightly touching the string getting only the upper tone in the sound spectrum, and other musical devices. All this was part of a kaleidoscope of musical color many times led by the viola or often featuring one instrument alone.
The other two works on the program were by Mozart and Brahms, a stark contrast to the contemporary work and complements from the 18th and 19th centuries. The Mozart Clarinet Quintet featured Frank Kowalsky, Professor of Clarinet at Florida State University. The clarinet gave a rather golden warmth to the string sound and punctuated it with bubbly arpeggios. The difference in style stood out immensely after the first work which was so three dimensional and non-directive. Here, the element of linear progression, of question and answer, of repetition and contrast --those building blocks of Baroque, Classic, and Romantic style -- suddenly became new, and newly understood. The work was very musically played and was a big hit with the audience.
The Brahms Quartet offered a richer and more varied texture than the Mozart and a faster tempo. The quartet’s sound was evenly meshed into a fabric of unified string sound, at times becoming very atmospheric (the third movement had shades of the Edward Ballade). It was full of feeling and sensitivity -- as was the quartet’s performance overall. They are good. And while not quite having achieved that quality of total unity from long years of playing together, they still work well together and have many bright years and CDs ahead of them.