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As I Heard It: DaPonte String Quartet Concert Review

DaPonte String Quartet

DaPonte String Quartet with guest artists in performance on July 2.

Photo: Lawrence Furbish

By Morton Gold

Two extraordinary events occurred at the Sanford Springvale Historical Museum last night. The first was the first appearance in Sanford by the DaPonte String Quartet (plus two superb guests) and the second was the performance of both sextets by Brahms at the same concert. There may have been a time, perhaps as recently as ten years ago, when this superb ensemble may have been regarded as a local group when compared to the internationally known Portland String Quartet. That was then. Since that time all four members of the PSQ have changed (one death, three retirements.) Meanwhile, only the first violinist was changed in the DaPonte quartet (arthritis) and the quality and vitality of this group has only soared. Taking nothing away from the Portlanders, on the basis of what I heard (and experienced) tonight, the DaPonte need not be regarded as poor relations musically speaking, but rather as equals. They are strong in each member and their replacement for Mr. Liva, Philipp Elssner is one fine violinist. Period. The other members of the ensemble are Lydia Forbes, violin, Kirsten Monke, viola and Myles Jordan, cello. Each may be regarded as an all-star.

The guest artists for this concert included Marcus Thompson, viola and Scott Kluksdahl, cello. They were up to the standards of their colleagues. The quartet rehearses five days a week and practices individually every day. This would help to explain why their ensemble is razor sharp, their intonation perfect, and their interpretation as good as it gets.

The last time I heard them play was many years ago. They were very good then; they are superb now in my opinion. The second event was the performance of both of the sextets composed by Brahms (addition of a second viola and cello.) Performance of either work is rare simply because of the demands placed on the performers by the composer as well as the addition of two more musicians who have to have the technical know-how as well as similar timbres of their colleagues. Personally, I liked the exuberant first sextet to the more introspective second. Both are masterpieces.

Highlights of this concert would have to include the lush and resonant sound of the group, the precise pizzicato (plucked strings), the superb intonation, the increase and decrease in volume (where called for) and the sheer musicality of the group. Wherever there was a principle motive played in the cello, viola or first violin, no matter how engaged the others were, that idea was never obscured. Both works were beautifully performed as a result of careful and abundant practice. For the second sextet, the musicians who played the first parts exchanged places with their colleagues with no difference either in cohesion, tone or anything else. My only regret is that more folks who would have enjoyed this quality performance were not there to enjoy it. The DaPonte String Quartet will appear at the Museum again on August 4. I hope their appearance will be better advertised and a larger crowd will appear.

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