Currently on their first tour in the United States, the Berlin Philharmonic Piano Quartet graced Jorgensen with an excellent night of music Thursday. As Rodney Rock, director of the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, said at the start of the show, the Berlin Philharmonic is one of the oldest existing ensembles of this type touring in the world today, making their appearance all the more special and unique.
The quartet is made up of violinists Andreas Buschatz and Matthew Hunter, cellist Knut Webe and pianist Markus Groh. All four were masters of their instruments, using their skill to make four men sound like an entire orchestra. They are also each extremely accomplished in their own rights. Buschatz has been Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic since 2010, Hunter and Webber play in various prestigious ensembles in Europe and abroad and Groh is considered one of the world’s most versatile pianists, playing in symphonies, orchestras, philharmonics and solo performances in cities all over the world, even receiving first prize in the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels.
The first two pieces that the Quartet played were Adagio e Rondo Concertante, D. 487 by Franz Schubert and Piano Quartet Op. 1 in A Minor by Josef Suk. Both were very lively pieces, providing a strong opening to the concert.
The most interesting piece in the program was a new quartet by Grammy award-winning composer Danny Elfman. Elfman, famous for his work with director Tim Burton in such films as “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Batman” and “Edward Scissorhands,” wrote the piece specifically for the Berlin Philharmonic Piano Quartet, this being his first attempt at this style of music. As expected, the piece was uneven and dragged in spots, yet it was still very impressive, considering that it was his first try. In comparison to the other three pieces performed, Elfman’s had a much more modern sound, similar to many of the other works in his repertoire. The overall mood was macabre and haunting, varying repeatedly between epic and sweeping to small and intimate. In its grandest moments, the music was fast and filled with terrific flare, and when it became smaller and quieter, there was a distinct feeling of unease, as if there was something dark festering beneath the surface of the theme.
The highlight of the night was Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 25 by Johannes Brahms. Op. 25 was one of Brahms’ first major breakthroughs as a composer, performed in his Vienna debut in 1862. As described in a Concert Talk before the show, Brahms’ three quartets are considered vital parts of chamber orchestra music, making this an obvious choice for the program. Each movement had its own distinct feel, building up to a grand orchestral style in the final movement which showcased the power held by just four instruments.
This was an excellent concert, showcasing a variety of composers with work spanning centuries. It was unfortunate to see a lack of student attendance during the performance. Hopefully more UConn students will take advantage of amazing live music like this in the future.
Evan Burns is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.