On Monday evening, April 25th, we went to Schwan Hall on the Wisconsin Lutheran College campus to hear a concert by the Philomusica string quartet. Founded in 2008, the Philomusica Quartet is Wisconsin Lutheran’s resident string quartet, is well known regionally, and has played across the country.
The group’s members are Alexander Mandl, violinist and conductor; Jeanyi Kim, violinist; Nathan Hackett, violist; and Adrien Zitoun, cellist. Among other work, Dr. Mandl is Concertmaster of the Racine and the Kenosha Symphonies, and a faculty member at Wisconsin Lutheran and other institutions. Jeanyi Kim is Associate Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony and Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra. Mr. Hackett is a member of the Milwaukee Symphony, principal violist for Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, and faculty at Wisconsin Lutheran. Mr. Zitoun is also a member of the Milwaukee Symphony, Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, and the Wisconsin Lutheran faculty. The busy artists also work with a large number of different groups and institutions.
The program consisted of the Quartettsatz in C-minor, D. 703, by Franz Schubert; String Quintet in D Major, K. 593, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and the String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, by Ludwig van Beethoven.
The Quartettsatz is an interesting piece, part of planned multi-movement quartet that Schubert planned but never finished. It begins with a dramatic theme, that transitions to a lyrical second theme, and a peaceful third theme, before the recapitulation and closing coda.
For the Mozart quintet, the group was joined by violist Matthew Michelic, who is currently on the faculty of the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, and who, like the other players, has a diverse and distinguished work history. This quintet was one of Mozart’s last two string quintets, which were anonymously commissioned at a time when Mozart’s fortunes were at a low ebb. The work seems to have cheered Mozart up somewhat, as the Allegro first movement is quite cheerful, the second movement Adagio, slow and sighing, but not sad, graceful and, at times, almost fragile. The third movement Menuetto is bright and humorous, and the fourth movement Allegro is based on a lively “Tarantella” structure.
The Quartet has been working its way through all of Beethoven’s string quartets, and we were privileged to hear them finish the journey with Number 14. Monumental, particularly by quartet standards, the piece has seven movements, played without interruption, which amounts to forty intense minutes of music. I found this piece in some ways to be more playful than “typical” Beethoven, perhaps in part because Beethoven by this time had pretty much thrown over conventions about the quartet form. The lengthy fifth movement Presto was particularly invigorating, and was followed by the short , Adagio quasi un poco andante. This was a good entrée to the finale Allegro, which was the most dramatic and sober—most “Beethoven-like”—part of the quartet.
All of the musicians displayed the highest degree of skill and ability in interpreting the music, and the concert was very well received by an enthusiastic audience. We enjoyed it particularly for the uplifting character of the music.
The Philomusica Quartet has announced their Wisconsin Lutheran concert schedule for next season, which looks very interesting. Doubtless we will attend some, events permitting.
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