Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 13, 2021

REVIEW: South Mountain Concerts, Calidore String Quartet

South Mountain Concerts, Pittsfield, MA 
September 12, 2021 
by Michael J. Moran 

A nearly full house warmly greeted the first live concert in this venerable series since October 2019 as the Calidore String Quartet – violinists Jeffrey Myers and Ryan Meehan, violist Jeremy Berry, and cellist Estelle Choi – took the stage at this storied venue. Formed in 2010 at the Colburn School in Los Angeles and named after the “golden state” of their origin (“dore” is French for “golden”), the ensemble has since earned rave reviews across the globe. 

The concert began with Mendelssohn’s second string quartet, written by the 18-year-old composer in 1827, partly in homage to the recently deceased Beethoven and his pathbreaking late quartets. The Calidore’s moving interpretation featured a grave opening “Adagio – Allegro vivace,” a passionate “Adagio non lento,” an elfin (and quintessentially “Mendelssohnian”) “Intermezzo: Allegretto con moto – Allegro di molto,” and a turbulent closing “Presto – Adagio non lento.” 

Next came a shattering account of Shostakovich’s powerful 1960 eighth string quartet, dedicated to the “memory of victims of fascism and war” while he was also writing a World War II film score in Dresden, Germany. Its five short movements (three of them marked “Largo,” or “Slow”) are played without pause and incorporate quotes from earlier Shostakovich works as well as the Russian revolutionary song “Languishing in Prison.” The dark colors of Berry’s viola and Choi’s cello were notably cogent and effective throughout.

A breif intermission was followed by a brilliant rendition of Beethoven’s mercurial 1825 fifteenth quartet, which helped inspire Mendelssohn’s second quartet in the same key - A minor. Its five expansive movements are built around the astonishing central and longest one, which Beethoven titled “Holy song of thanksgiving to the divinity by a convalescent.” The Calidore’s wrenching intensity here was overwhelming, but they were just as compelling in the surrounding four movements, from a bracing “Assai sostenuto- Allegro,” a gentle “Allegro ma non tanto,” and a stirring “Alla Marcia, assai vivace,” to a vigorous “Allegro appassionato” finale.
South Mountain requires proof of Covid vaccination and masking inside the concert hall. This essential 2021 Sunday afternoon concert series of chamber music performed by world-class musicians runs through October 10, 2021.