Ying Quartet January 8, 2010
By Glen Creason
I have a young friend, formerly a bassist in a cow-punk band who knows music from top to bottom but cannot connect to Classical composition because she finds it too staid. If only she could have taken in the concert on Friday of the Ying Quartet at the Performing Arts Center that contained all the ingredients of propriety including composers Beethoven, Schumann, and Janacek played by two violins, a cello and a viola (a string quartet!) However, while the music was centuries old and the string quartet is obviously a smaller sound than an orchestra the Ying Quartet filled the hall with emotion and demonstrated playing so passionate you hardly saw a staid seam showing. There was nothing stuffy about this concert and often the emotional expressions caused the players to practically elevate out of their chairs.
The Yings are mostly family with Janet on Violin, Philip on Viola and David on Cello joining the one non-sibling Frank Huang on the other violin. The program was chosen to exhibit romantic expressions and the group’s spirited performance helped bring this theme to vivid life. Schumann’s Quartet in A Major, Opus 41, no. 3 was written for his beloved wife Clara and the opening movement literally calls her name with the dreamy lead violin repeating the phrase just as one smitten might call out their love. The remaining three movements ranged from tenderness to a deeply romantic yearning that the composer felt for his young bride. The final “allegro” was joyful, celebratory which was expressed perfectly with the strings all standing together like such a union.
The second piece by Leos Janacek, Quartet no. 2, “Intimate Letters”, again emoted such romantic striving but in this case the object of the composer’s ardor was unreachable and the love was sadly unrequited. Thus the music has much more discord, some tortured yearning, uncertainty and strife. The pieces here tip-toed up to painful pursuit of this object of amor but still had moments of ecstatic joy in the composers heart that seemed to reach beyond even the power of musical composition. The music is actually a companion to the many intimate love letters he sent to his intended who was kept from responding by the unpleasant reality of a young husband. The final allegro reached beyond the twists and turns of Janacek’s ultimate failure to a dream of the possibilities of love.
The best was indeed saved for last on the program for the Ying Quartet and Beethoven’s incredibly rich Quartet in C Major, Opus 59, no. 3 that is sometimes called Hero. The music here seems to expand the entire concept of the quartet and creates a powerful statement in bright, lyrical tones after an uncharacteristic somber beginning. In every movement of this quartet the performance by the Yings was impressive in passion and perfect in complimenting each other’s playing in this wonderfully complex composition. The crisp and lively rendering of the opening two andante leads to a rather elegant and stately minuet which then flows into the memorable Allegro molto at the finish that would have made the cow-punk bassist tap her foot in joyful rhythm.