Well Beyond Its Years
To state the obvious – that this quartet was performing well beyond its years – actually goes without saying. The Isidore String Quartet (Adrian Steele and Phoenix Avalon, violins; David Moore, viola; and Joshua McClendon, cello) brought a level of musicianship not often attained even by ensembles who have been performing together longer than the members of the Isidore have been alive.
To further demonstrate their youth and fresh approach to chamber music, each musician used electronic music scripts; no more paper flapping around on stands.
As we have often written, the beauty of chamber music is the conversation that occurs among the musicians, giving the selections a homogeneity that results in a common language and instrumental unity. Over the years, we have had the pleasure of listening to many groups who have accomplished this feat, but most have been working at it for far more than the three years the Isidore has had to perfect its performance. To further demonstrate their youth and fresh approach to chamber music, each musician used electronic music scripts; no more paper flapping around on stands. And their fresh approach certainly didn’t end there.
Beginning Sunday’s concert with Haydn’s String Quartet in C major, the Isidore quickly demonstrated its mastery of a very traditional chamber music selection. Their second choice was new to most audience members: Billy Childs’ emotional String Quartet No. 2, “Awakening,” which with descriptive music portrays an experience of nearly losing his wife to a desperate illness. This music and the very sensitive manner in which it was performed spoke to the audience. The last movement, “Song of Healing,” with its wary but hopeful motif was just beautiful.
They played it with youthful vigor, precision, and seamless transitions.
The concert finished with the String Quartet No 2 in C major by Benjamin Britten. Like much of Britten’s work, this music is devilishly difficult to perform, but it soon became apparent that this young quartet had got the best of Britten. They played it with youthful vigor, precision, and seamless transitions. Certainly, many hours of practice paid off in a rendering of this difficult composition which was as near perfect as Britten could have wished.
The Isidore has already won some prestigious awards: the Banff International String Quartet Competition las year, and earlier this year the coveted Avery Fisher Career Grant. And they have yet to produce recorded music. They began as an ensemble at the Juilliard School and their style is influenced by that august institution.
I will go out on a limb to make a prediction about the Isidore (not a scary feat at all): I believe that soon we will be hearing more about this group, and we will have the smug satisfaction of knowing they were here at the San Antonio Chamber Music Society very early in their careers. They are obviously four young men on the road to greatness and they represent a new generation of musicians who are devoted to the very old but ever-evolving genre of chamber music.
Before I leave this season, I – on behalf of the Board of the San Antonio Chamber Music Society – want to thank our loyal subscribers and faithful attendees for their support and goodwill during this post-pandemic era. We are looking forward to relocating our performances next season to Trinity Baptist Church, and we are grateful to Temple Beth-El for housing us these last years.
And speaking of next season, I hope you will join us for another round of Sunday afternoons filled with rich musical adventures:
October 8, 2023: Decoda
November 12, 2023: Brandon Patrick George, flute, and Mahan Esfahani, harpsichord
January 21, 2024: Balourdet Quartet
March 3, 2024: Jupiter String Quartet
April 28, 2024: Viva Tango!
– E Doyle