Avalon String Quartet
Many Chicagoans love the Chicago Symphony where they can enjoy the
classics performed by some of the best. They also travel up to Ravinia in
Highland Park each summer and enjoy the bandshell at Millennium Park, but
like me I would think that many are unaware that we have a smaller venue
right near Greek Town. The Merit School of Music located at 38 S. Peoria
Street has a venue that is perfect for chamber music. This room, which seats
several hundred patrons on comfortable chairs is called the Gottlieb Hall and
has wonderful sound. On February 10th I attended a "Winter Concert"
featuring the Avalon String Quartet, a smashing quartet of musicians who
work out of Northern Illinois University but travel all over the world.
This concert celebrated the sounds of Russia; sounds that were written by
Russian artists or inspired by them. They began with String Quartet #2 in F
Major, op.92 written by Serge Prokofiev. Watching these musicians was like
watching a team of precise athletes or actors/dancers doing a routine that
makes them appear as one. The bows they use to play the violins, viola and
cello appear to be extensions of their hands as they make them move almost
in perfect unison from piece to piece. In watching their faces and eyes, one
can see that they are a true team, each watching the other so that at no time
do they miss one note; simply marvelous.
The four members of this troupe, Blaise Magniere, Marie Wang (violins),
Cheng-Hou Lee (cello) and Anthony Devroye (viola) are as if they were one.
For the second selection, "Quartet for Violin, viola and two celli" by Anton
Arensky, Ms. Wang left the stage and special guest Yehuda Hanani added his
cello to the mix. This work included variations to Tchaikovsky's works and
was mind boggling. To many chamber music is something special as you are
in an intimate setting, able to see the faces of the musicians as well as their
hands and body language. In a large hall, only those who pay the premium
ticket price get this opportunity, yet even they do not get to experience the
feeling of the musical pieces as they do with a quartet such as this.
After a short intermission, the original members of Avalon come back on the
stage for "String Quartet in E minor op.59 #2 by Beethoven, magical
moments in musical history. While Beethoven was not a Russian, the work he
wrote was in fact commissioned by the Russian Ambassador to Vienna asking
the quartets to include the sounds of Russian Folk songs. And if one closes
their eyes, one can imagine the Russians working their fields, going home at
the end of the day to their families and staring at the skies above as the day
becomes night and they rest at last. Mostly quiet, there are moments of great
sound but each piece ends peacefully, until the Finale which ends on a high
note. While many people find themselves dozing as they listen to the
wonderful sounds, the Finale makes sure they are prepared to give this
troupe the well deserved ovation.
While this particular concert was one night only, I ask you to get your date
book out and mark the date April 18 at 4 p.m. in it as that is when they
return for their Spring concert in the same venue. On this date, they will do
Beethoven, H. Meltzer and Brahms and based on what I experienced tonight,
you are in for a special treat. If you are not into classical music, hearing them
might just be what you need to become interested. They are unique and
bring you into the music they perform. Their special guest for the Spring
concert will be Anthony McGill on the clarinet , so there will be a different
type of sound.
Tickets for this concert are $25, $10 for students and seniors. This is a
bargain and for first time classical music concert attendees, this is a smart
investment. You can order tickets by calling 1-800-838-3006 or online at
www.brownpapertickets.com (search for Avalon quartet). For more info on
the troupe, www.avalonquartet.com.