AMERNET STRING QUARTET/IRIS VAN ECK/
By Lawrence Budmen
The Chameleon Musicians Seriesí season opener on Sunday featured major works by two of the three Bí s with a rarely played Mozart masterwork as centerpiece. Fort Lauderdaleís Leisure Opera Center ballroom is an inviting venue for chamber music, boasting warmly vibrant acoustics and the intimate aura of a salon.
The Amernet String Quartet joined cellist Iris van Eck (director of the Chameleon concerts) and violist Chauncey Patterson (formerly of the Miami String Quartet) for Brahmsí Sextet No.1 in B-flat Major. Resident ensemble at Florida International University, the Amernet players (Misha Vitenson and Marcia Littley, violins; Michael Klotz, viola; and Javier Arias, cello) brought heartfelt passion , generous expressivity, and high voltage excitement to one of Brahmsí earliest chamber scores.
With a wonderful sense of romantic grandeur pervading the entire performance, the musiciansí relaxed, spacious approach to the opening movement was almost improvisatory. Ariasí glorious cello variations in the solemn Andante captured the movementí s dramatic cast. Klotz and Patterson, both masters of their instrument, deftly traced the violaís soaring theme With Vitenson providing volcanic leadership, the Scherzo was essayed with palpable gypsy fire. The groupsí dark Brahmsian tonal sonority brought depth as well as spirit to the Rondo finale. Van Eckís rich cello sound ignited the fiercely intense coda.
Mozartís Divertimento in E-flat Major, K.563 is a towering work for string trio. Written three years before the composerís death, the score is tinged with the pathos finely etched in many of Mozartí s late masterpieces. Van Eck, Vitenson, and Klotz offered spirited rhythmic drive and precise articulation. In the Andante, a theme of deceptive simplicity was phrased with tenderness and delicacy. The Menuetto seemed to dance off the strings with scintillating vivacity. Taut, wonderfully quirky shaping infused the concluding Allegro, one of Mozartís most divine inventions.
The concert commenced with Klotz taking solo honors in a viola transcription of Bachís Cello Suite No.1 in G Major. Popularized by Pablo Casals, the score proved surprisingly adaptable to the smaller instrument. Klotz produced darkly burnished, full tone and clarity of instrumental line. He shaped the familiar Prelude eloquently. Far from courtly dance graces, the violist displayed modernist urgency in a brilliant reading of the Courante. Capturing the essence of Bach, Klotz infused the delightful Gigue with the invigorating joy of the dance.