January 23, 2016: Fine Arts Quartet & Michael Kim

Fine Arts Quartet and Michael Kim, piano

Ralph Evans, Efim Boico, violins

Juan-Miguel Hernandez, viola

Robert Cohen, cello



Saturday, January 23, 2016 at 8 PM


Beethoven: String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131

Dvořák: Piano Quintet No. 2 in A major, Op. 81


Dear friends,

On October 5, 2013, Virtuosi Concerts presented the Winnipeg debut of the legendary Fine Arts Quartet, with special guest artist, pianist Michael Kim. We were all thrilled and overwhelmed. “The quartet is not only ‘Fine’, it is the finest we’ve heard at Virtuosi!” – wrote one patron. “How much excellence was brought to this hall tonight!” – wrote another.

We immediately booked these five artists for a return engagement, and they created a very special programme indeed, including what many agree is the greatest string quartet ever written.

BEETHOVEN confided to a friend that while each of his string quartets was unique, “each in its way”, his favorite was the C sharp minor, Op. 131 (composed in 1826). His friend also reported on Schubert’s extraordinary reaction upon hearing it: “He fell into such a state of excitement and enthusiasm that we were all frightened for him!”

Richard Wagner remarked that the very slow introductory Adagio “reveals the most melancholy sentiment in music,” and as for the final movement, Wagner wrote: “This is the fury of the world’s dance – fierce pleasure, agony, ecstasy of love, joy, anger, passion, and suffering; lightning flashes and thunder rolls; and above the tumult the indomitable fiddler whirls us on to the abyss.”

Little segments of Op. 131 performed by the Brentano Quartet are heard throughout the 2012  movie, A Late Quartet, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken.

Here is how the Fine Arts cellist, Robert Cohen feels about performing this work:

“Within the very first moments of playing Beethoven’s String Quartet Op.131, I am plunged into the deepest of emotions; what profound and tragic music this is. I’m overwhelmed. How does Beethoven make me feel this way, moving me into another world with his first touch? It’s the intense intimacy, the sparseness and economy. Not a trace of indulgence – I’m reminded of Bach.

We see Beethoven’s giant personality controlling every moment, expecting precision, with enormous strength and sublime beauty. But Beethoven’s passion for pushing the boundaries, for shocking and astonishing, brings a series of completely surprising and elevating changes. This is a work that astounds me, even though I have been performing the music of Beethoven for more than 40 years!

The journey of Op.131 is without movement breaks, without the usual places to close one set of thoughts and emotions, and prepare for the next. He is relentless. From the heart-breaking beauty in the first Adagio, through the wild, whacky and humorous Presto – where frankly I have to suppress my laughter! – to moments of tragedy, drama and extreme passion, Beethoven commands and demands we stay in his world. It is an exhilarating experience to perform Op.131 and to communicate the energy and message of this masterpiece to the audience. Beethoven’s genius is to draw us into new depths, to stretch our expectations, to enhance our lives.“

DVOŘÁK’S Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81 was composed in 1887. It is one of the three acknowledged masterpieces of the form. The others are by Schumann and Brahms (and Michael Kim performed the Schumann Quintet with the Fine Arts Quartet in 2013).

Here is Michael Kim’s artistic vision for this work:

“Dvořák’s Piano Quintet is one of the pinnacles of this form to me – a work of immense vitality, musical freshness, and character. An outgrowth of the nationalism that characterized the Romantic era, I find Dvořák’s unique sense of expressive lyricism, and his ability to organically integrate elements of Czech folk melodies and dance within his compositional style utterly captivating.

The folk melodies and dance elements were of his own original creation while remaining true to his native idioms. Dvořák’s ability to seamlessly integrate these elements within the traditional bounds of classical structure and form never ceases to amaze me, not only in this Quintet, but also in his overall compositional output.

The Quintet is ingeniously constructed, and flows almost magically from one section/episode to the next. One could almost characterize it as a series of folk dance/song episodes (vignettes), a kind of free-flowing, narrative documentary of Dvořák’s impressions of Czech culture and life.

His piano concerto and solo piano works are not often performed, and as such, this performance is a rare opportunity to perform a Dvořák masterpiece as a pianist. Its exuberance and Bohemian vitality always makes this a thrill to perform, and the dynamic interplay and exchange between the musicians is a musical dance and a kind of folk drama onto itself!”

To see and hear the American String Quartet performing Beethoven’s Op. 131, CLICK HERE

To see and hear Richter perform the Dvorak Quintet with the Borodin Quartet, CLICK HERE

(N.B. My historical notes and quotes are taken from Mel Berger, “Guide to Chamber Music”.)

And opening the concert, as part of our Young Artist Program will be Luis Ramirez. He will be performing Chopin’s Etude No. 12, Op. 25

I look forward to seeing you all at this special concert on Saturday.