Review: Something old and something newish from South Beach Chamber Ensemble
The musicians, from left: Tony Seepersad and Ericmar Perez, violins; Michael Andrews, cello; and Eric Eakes, viola. (Photo courtesy of Michael Todd)
Miami’s music scene is diverse and still expanding. As a cultural center of South Florida, it is of great importance for the city and community to support its musicians – and their multiple and versatile projects – and to enhance future collaborations with guest artists. The South Beach Chamber Ensemble is worth following and encouraging in its endeavors to make Miami’s classical music scene more vibrant.
In January, the string quartet performed two concerts entitled “Something Old, Something New,” featuring the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and Benjamin Britten (1913-1976). The ensemble first performed this program at the Miami Beach Woman’s Club on Jan. 12, warming up for its second concert on Jan. 14 at the Coral Gables Museum, which we reviewed.
The concert featured Mozart’s String Quartet No. 15 in D minor K 421/417b (1783) and Britten’s String Quartet No. 1 in D major Op. 25 (1941).
The first notes of Mozart’s piece exhibited the quartet’s coherence and intonational accuracy. The musicians demonstrated their devotion to the piece through bright timbral resonance and precise intonation in homorhythmic parts.
This quartet is one of six that Mozart dedicated to Joseph Haydn, the role model for composers of classicism and of string quartets. Based on its seductive minor melodic qualities, Mozart’s piece was interpreted with romantic sensibilities and impetuous phrasings. However, the ensemble balanced sound well with respect to classical stylistic guidance and expression.
By expounding the character of Allegro Moderato in a faster moderato tempo rather than Allegro tempo, the ensemble showed courage to present Mozart’s piece slightly differently from what is expected.
The blend of stylistic insights was most noticeable in the andante movement. Excellent interaction between performers resulted in the synchronous execution of tutti segments. In Menuetto-Allegretto, Tony Seepersad (violin) performed leading melodies with fine timbre, moderate vibrato, and emotional expression. Somewhat unrestrained movement of the tip of his bow contributed to a slightly divergent timbre at places.
Despite occasional erratic pizzicatos, musicians gave a rousing performance in the final Allegretto Ma Non Troppo, with vigorous rhythmical precision.
Following the Mozart part, Britten’s quartet was conveyed with an alluring and crisp tone. Ericmar Perez (violin) and Eric Eakes (viola) demonstrated agility in their respective parts. The ensemble’s executive artistic director and founder, Michael Andrews (cello), brought a warm low pizzicato to a vigilantly delivered first movement of Britten’s piece.
The meditative beginning of the first movement Andante Sostenuto demonstrated the performers’ finetuned listening in communicating subtle contrasts in structure, dramaturgy, and dynamics.
The ensemble continued this precision in Allegro Con Slancio, a section brimmed with playful character and togetherness. In Andante Calmo, the performers achieved a nice balance between parts with a relatively slower and calmer pace than a busy listener’s imagination would expect. Andrews’ cello delicately led the drive at the beginning of the final Molto. Perez and Eakes stepped out of performing only secondary melodies and showed their playfulness and musicianship in interacting with ensemble members.
In overall harmonious playing at the beginning of each movement, as well as enthralling homogeneous closures, the quartet showed all its performing potential and capacities.