Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 22, 2023

REVIEW: South Windsor Cultural Arts, "Balourdet String Quartet"

Evergreen Crossings, South Windsor, CT 
March 19, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

Formed in 2018 and named after a “chef extraordinaire” at the Taos School of Music, where they met, the Boston-based Balourdet Quartet – violinists Angela Bae and Justin DeFilippis, violist Benjamin Zannoni, and cellist Russell Houston - explained their South Windsor program as showcasing how they “sing together.” It featured three contrasting works by 19th-century German composers. 

The program began with a sparkling account of Hugo Wolf’s sprightly 1887 “Italian Serenade,” which DeFilippis, in lively, engaging remarks (“He knows how to use a microphone,” one listener enthused), called a “delightful little appetizer” for the two quartets to follow. 

Next came a passionate reading of Felix Mendelssohn’s 1837 Quartet #4 in E Minor, Op. 44/2, written when he was 28 years old, “the median age,” DeFilippis noted, “of Balourdet Quartet members.” From a mercurial opening “Allegro assai appassionato,” a fleet “Scherzo: Allegro di molto,” and a ravishing “Andante,” to a fast and furious “Presto agitato” finale, they captured all the “emotional turbulence of the Romantic era” that DeFilippis had described.   

The concert closed with a powerful performance of Ludvig van Beethoven’s groundbreaking 1825-26 Quartet #13 in B-flat Major, Op. 130, one of the last pieces he wrote before his death in 1827. In six rather than the usual four movements, DeFilippis saw this as a “transformative” work far ahead of its time. 

A fiery “Adagio ma non troppo-Allegro” led into three shorter movements with dance tempos – a whirlwind “Presto,” a pungent “Andante con moto ma non troppo,” and an ingratiating “Alla danza tedesca: Allegro assai” – and a sublime, lyrical “Cavatina: Adagio molto espressivo.” Then it abruptly shifted moods with the challenging “Grosse Fuge” (“Great Fugue”), which DeFilippis heard as ending the quartet (and which the Balourdets played) with “resounding joy.”   

The warm acoustics of the theater in this suburban Connecticut venue amplified the youthful exuberance of this foursome’s seamless musicmaking. It will be interesting to hear how their performance style evolves in coming decades beyond its current astonishing excellence. 

SWCA, a nonprofit, volunteer-supported organization, has sponsored this free concert series for over 40 years. All concerts take place on Sundays at 2:00 pm, and seating on a first-come, first-served basis begins at 1:30 pm. Next up is cellist Jacqueline Choi on April 2.