Stories » Cecilia String Quartet find harmony in disorder at Library of Congress - Stradivari anniversary concert / Washington Post

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Cecilia String Quartet find harmony in disorder at Library of Congress - Stradivari anniversary concert / Washington Post

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For its Stradivari Anniversary Concert on Saturday, the Library of Congress drew a set of notably mellow and silver-toned, Antonio Stradivari-crafted instruments from its collection and placed them in the eloquent hands of the Toronto-based Cecilia String Quartet. The ensemble opened its recital with a lean-toned reading of Mozart's D-Minor Quartet K. 421, spun of gossamer textures and the merest hint of vibrato, and closed with Mendelssohn's E-Minor Quartet Op. 44, No. 2 in a performance bursting with emotion.

Between those standard-repertoire bookends came a cannily programmed pair of contemporary works. Sofia Gubaidulina's 1971 String Quartet No. 1 starts with the quartet members sharing the same note but quickly devolves into combative interplay that shrieks, murmurs, whines and sputters until the four players are isolated musically (and physically, having gradually retreated to every corner of the stage), essentially babbling to themselves. Written during a dark Soviet period, the work (particularly in the Cecilia's razor-sharp performance) felt prescient and pointedly in touch with our own country's zeitgeist.

READ THE FULL Washington Post REVIEW